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3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  4,311 ratings  ·  740 reviews
Like Spartan Helen, I caused a war. She caused hers by letting men who wanted her take her. I caused mine because I wouldn't be given, wouldn't be taken.

By the sacred springs in the forest near her home, Lavinia, young princess of Latium, encounters a poet - a soothsayer - who foretells her future: to marry a Trojan hero named Aeneas and found a great kingdom and a mighty
Paperback, 295 pages
Published May 13th 2010 by Phoenix (first published 2008)
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I thought this book was boring. There, I said it. Even though it had passion, war, bloodshed, royal intrigue, suicide, I found it boring and it was difficult for me to convince myself to continue reading it. I am a classic history buff, which this novel has loads of, but it still couldn't grip my interest. The tone of the book was quiet and ghostly, very in the past so I never felt anything immediate. It was a story told by someone who remembered facts, places, names, etc. and spoke of emotion, ...more
Sep 12, 2008 Jake rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jake by:

“I am not the feminine voice you may have expected”

When my father told me that Ursula LeGuin had put out a new novel, I was, as I usually am, ecstatic. LeGuin is one of my all time favorite authors, and I can’t think of time when she’s written something that has somehow failed to engage, entertain, or intrigue me. The fact that she was, apparently, riffing off Virgil’s Aeneid was just icing on the cake for this poor excuse for a classical studies major.

When the book arrived, I found myself looki
Jul 08, 2008 Libby rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: classicists with a yen for historical fiction
Recommended to Libby by: The Onion AV Club
Back when I studied Latin, we were given bits of Virgil's "Aeneid" to translate. I always found it to be a chore, as poetry is more challenging to translate than textbook translating exercises like "Roma est in Italia." Still, I thought I knew the piece sufficiently until hearing that Ursula Le Guin had written a book about a character from "Aeneid" but having no idea who Lavinia was. Having now read "Aeneid" in its translated entirety, I can't really fault myself for not remembering Lavinia. Sh ...more
It's interesting to contrast this with Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad. Both explore one of the Big Classics (The Aeneid in LeGuin's case, the Odyssey in Atwood's) from a female character's perspective. LeGuin and Atwood are both stellar writers, but I enjoyed Lavinia vastly more. LeGuin seems to have a real affection for her characters, and that makes for a warmer, more humane book.

You can't tackle such a project without exploring the constraints placed on women in ancient times, but again, the a
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

Following the resounding success of my Locus Quest, I faced a dilemma: which reading list to follow it up with? Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to diversify and pursue six different lists simultaneously. This book falls into my LOCUS FANTASY list.

As the Locus Sci-Fi Award winners list treated me so kindly, I figure I’ll trust those same good folk to pick me some stars in their sister-list, the Locus Fantasy Award winners.

Having never read any Le Guin before, I was a little unsure
I'm a huge fan of Ursula K. LeGuin, but this is not her best book. She is a giant in the fantasy-sci-fi field, with books like The Left Hand of Darkness and The Earthsea Trilogy, but Lavinia is only the second half of a great story. It's a brilliant concept; she takes a character mentioned in passing in Virgil's Aeneid, the wife of Aeneas, and creates a story around her. But she should have jumped in with both feet and defined a whole world, as only she can do. Instead, the story keeps nervously ...more
I loved this book for its wisdom and its tenderness and for the spare, elegant richness of its language. Stories have been pouring out of Le Guin these last few years, as if the ripeness of her words must be shared. We are so grateful.
Jan 03, 2010 Shayne rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Le Guin fans, people with an interest in mythology
I gave this book four stars for its credible evocation of a very different time and place; for the feeling it gave of research thoroughly done but applied with a light hand; and most of all for the beauty of Le Guin's prose. The lady simply has a way with words.

Lavinia never speaks a word in The Aeneid; Le Guin gives her a voice. She also has Lavinia muse on her own status as the creation of a poet, and the form of limited immortality her incomplete rendering gives her. The book can be read as a
Jul 23, 2009 Jennie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennie by: the MIL
Shelves: classical-lit
Being a lady classicist often requires willful acts of cognitive dissonance. It's not just that nearly all your extant source material was written by men, about men, for men, it's also that Greek and Roman culture, particularly the culture portrayed in the great epics (the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid) is brutally testosterone-fueled and flagrantly anti-woman. In epic, the worst women are pure, unadulterated evil--monsters like Scylla, Charybdis, and the Sirens. Slightly less evil are thos ...more
Ursula K. Le Guin has a true gift for evoking the mysterious echoes of a far distant mythic past. I first noticed this in her Earthsea cycle: the darkness of both temple and tomb, a world trembling with unrealized mysteries, attempts to harness powers that can never be fully mastered. While Lavinia departs from the traditional fantasy genre in that it is a retelling of The Aeneid, it has lost none of the atmospheric richness that make Ms. Le Guin’s books so magical.

The tale is told from the pers
This retelling of Virgil's Aeneid from Lavina's point of view is blissfully mythic. I often prefer ancient world to medieval fantasy, because people in the ancient world experienced life through a mythic mindset, or so I believe. Like you could say the Australian aboriginal dreamtime was real, because those people used it to navigate their world, the mythic world of Vesta, Juno, and Mars was real because the Latins' mental model of the world revolved around them.
Ursula Le Guin really worked at h
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Don't go reading Le Guin expecting Koontz. Lavinia's character was handled with grace and imagination. But there was very little plot. I guess I should say, I kept waiting for the climax, and it never happened. While discussing this with my husband, he said, "Isn't that just like life? You think it's going somewhere, then it's just over." As depressing as that sounds, it's still a good book. None of the Margaret Atwood or Marion Zimmer Bradley anachronistic feminism here. Lavinia was refreshing ...more
This was really close to 5 stars. I was looking for a bit of a change with my last several reads and this one seemed to fit the bill. You know how it sometimes when you read a book at exactly the right moment? For whatever reason it hits you right in the soft spot? This book did that for me, it was a palate cleanser and a breath of fresh air. Who knows if I would feel the same way 3 months from now but in this particular moment in time this was a wonderful read.

It's been more than a few years si
Stephanie Dray
Wow. Just wow. This was profoundly beautiful. I regret every minute I didn't read this book. Perhaps I'm a special kind of perfect audience for this book--it had everything that would appeal to me. It's a woman's story, ancient history, Roman legend, the Aeneid, with touches of magic.
Le Guin riffs off the Aeneid by expanding into its own book the story of Vergil's minor character Lavinia, Italian daughter of King Latinus and Queen Amata. (As such, fits into a particular genre, along with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, of books that amplify a minor character from a famous book.) The reader meets Lavinia before Aeneas's landing in Italy, and follows her story through the war of Trojans and Italians and into the reign of Ascanius.

Le Guin plays up the indebtedness angle
Laurel Hicks
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Very well done! Lavinia, fated to share with Aeneus the founding of Rome, tells from her perspective some of the events of the final chapters of the Aeneid. Virgil appears, as does Dante. Few authors could bring this off as well as LeGuin. And this is the first book I have read by her. Now I'm off to read Virgil again.
I confess to having been basically ignorant of Virgil's Aeneid before this. But I've studied a little about it now, as it is essential to the appreciation of Lavinia to understand its context. This novel retells the events of the second part of Aeneid, from the first person perspective of a relatively minor character. Lavinia is the young daughter of the king of the tribal Latins who inhabit the vicinity of Rome many centuries before the Roman Empire, destined to become the wife of the king of t ...more
This is the kind of book that makes you wish you'd had a classical education. LeGuin takes a minor character from the Aeneid and fleshes her out with the story she should have had. I wasn't actually in the mood for a war story, but the details of the life of this ancestor of Rome are fascinating. What really made this story stand out was Lavinia's relationship to Vergil who contacts her in sacred space, blurring the lines between legend/fiction/reality.
Cathy Douglas
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 07, 2012 Heather rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Heather by: Anna Beck
Lavinia is a suitably worthy companion to its inspiration, the Aeneid--no small praise considering the stature of that magnificent poem. It is apparent that Ursula Le Guin loves and respects the Aeneid, something which can be truly said of few modern "tributes" to classic books. With only minor exceptions (the color of Lavinia's hair, for instance) and those acknowledged in the text itself, the novel takes the details of Virgil's poem and uses them as the framework for a fleshing out of the Lati ...more
Kevin Mcninch
Upon starting Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin I asked myself whether I had ever read a good book that started with a two-page map of fictional lands and kingdoms. As a 'cartographer' I find the exercise interesting, but my hesitation comes because I have been burned too many times by really bad fantasy novels that seem to revel in their self-creativity, while consisting of horrible prose and unoriginal, cliched stories. Sure, there has been the Lord of the Rings, but how many times has that idea be ...more
Lavinia is actually very good. Ursula Le Guin’s writing is excellent, though I must say that I’m not as familiar with the last six books of The Aeneid on which this novel is based, as I am with the first.

Thought it rather interesting how Le Guin refrains from using external sources, i.e. the petty jealousies of the gods, from influencing the actions of the characters. The gods are still present, though they don’t play as active a part in the story. Here, Le Guin makes the characters culpable for
April Helms
May 26, 2008 April Helms rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adults
Shelves: fantasy
The premise of the story is that it takes part of the Aenid by Virgil, and tells it from Lavinia's point of view. The result was a bit disappointing. There was a lot to like -- loved the research done on the time, and how it was NOT set in an opulent kingdom, but a realistic-feeling provincial, even poor area. Also, when LeGuin is on a role, her words and word images are poetry themselves. She creates a sympathetic character in Lavinia, who's plight could define the phrase "caught between a rock ...more
Such a beautiful book. I was transported and moved by it. Underlying her work is a vision of humility that humanity needs to exist in the world with grace towards other creatures, other people, and the planet. Lavinia's people, the Latins, call this quality piety; Lavinia defines piety as obedience to one's small place in a grander scheme of things, and she sees that this quality of piety can be in conflict with the honor and duty called upon in war.

I love the details of landscape and ritual tha
A Le Guin novel, based on The Aeneid? How could I fail to adore it? At the start, I was worried I wouldn't get into it, because the narrative voice didn't feel very distinctive -- I was reading Le Guin's writing, lovely and clear and beautiful and strong, rather than hearing Lavinia's voice. But at some point, before I was even twenty pages in, that thought faded. Perhaps my deep familiarity with the original text was a bit of a barrier too. When Vergil talks about what's going to happen, or Lav ...more
Ah, this is a lovely jewel of a book. I love the character of Lavinia, and of her poet, and the texture of her life. UKL is a magician of the highest order, conjuring up this story that is so real and grounded. It feels so true and good and substantive. Despite being the tale of a narrator who knows she's a fictional character.

I love the worship of the lares and penates, the daily rites. I feel the urge to do something of the sort in my own home, though it's hard to know what would feel right.
Yay for voicing marginalised women. :p Obviously, the language is a diminuation. Stick figure sketches replace stained glass scenes.

*likes 'em ornate*

Lavinia's ultimate revenge upon the poet who denied her words is to credit him these... "Oh Lavinia, you are worth ten Camillas. And I never saw it. Well, never mind."

*wipes tear at immortal eloquence* ;)

*predicts ruckus in the Underworld*

Ursula K. Le Guin rarely gets it wrong, but I was worried that I would find this retelling of the end of the Aeneid--an epic poem I had never read and had no interest in--hard to get into. On the contrary: Lavinia's voice is strong, her story is compelling and even the postmodern framework of the novel is intriguing instead of being an annoying gimmick. Highly recommended.
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As of 2013, Ursula K. Le Guin has published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. Forthcoming ...more
More about Ursula K. Le Guin...
A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1) The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Cycle, #2) The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Cycle, #3) The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle, #4) The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle, #5)

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