I was all over this concept, let me say straight off. Honestly it's the concept that kept this from being a two starred review. This book almost hits...moreI was all over this concept, let me say straight off. Honestly it's the concept that kept this from being a two starred review. This book almost hits a lot of interesting points repeatedly, but it always tends to land shy of where it seems to be going. The notions of Greek Gods being human-like but also not kind of worked, but Zeus and Hades were so polarized in terms of evil and good respectively (and isn't that a twist compared to most modern tellings) that it was hard to really take either of them as realized characters, let alone love interests. I also wasn't sure why exactly Persephone was being preened for Olympus, because the concepts of how this universe was established were added as needed, instead of ingrained from the start.
I think the falling out happened the moment Persephone left Demeter's lair for Olympus. Everything became very tilted and hard to connect to in terms of details and rules of the universe. All the characters fluttered around Persephone in a way that was never explained. Sometimes it worked, like the water nymphs playing with her, but most of the time it didn't (such as Hermes' random interest and whispering of prophecies).
It's really nice to read queer stories with happy outcomes, so I'm not disparaging that aspect of it, but I blinked and missed the climax and ending. Everything builds so slowly to this romance and then the conflict peters out in an extremely odd way.
The concept is still great, I love the Persephone myth, especially when pitched against a consensual situation (as Hades is probably the least jerkish of the Greek Gods, modern portrayals aside) and a lesbian retelling is pretty neat! The execution left a lot to be desired though and I think the abrupt wrap up of the ending was the part that left me cold. (less)
Like Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Firebrand, Lavinia tells the story of a famous myth from the perspective of a woman...moreLike Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Firebrand, Lavinia tells the story of a famous myth from the perspective of a woman deep within it with barely an opportunity to speak for herself. It also, like the previous mentioned novels, tells the tale in a narrative form of a woman speaking past her death or into her old age and telling the story not only through her own perspective, but sharing secrets with the reader that no one else knows. Lavinia did a much better job with the narrative structure than The Penelopiad and Firebrand, in my opinion.
While there's nothing wrong with kick-ass ladies in these types of stories, it was really cool to read about Lavinia who assesses herself as the meek daughter and supplicant always to her responsibilities as a woman and future queen without shrinking into that role. She blossoms out of it in a way that doesn't truly defy the sexual constructs of the time. I think the way Le Guin deftly touches on these issues in the background really brings Lavinia to life in a real and true way. There's a sense of care and thoughtfulness for all of the characters and I always felt sympathetic for all of the characters, even those at their worst, as Lavinia attempted to understand them, if not sympathize.
Lavinia responds to the idea of a Poet (and the notion of the narrative being created by the story-teller as the construction of the magnitude of Rome descending from the Trojans of legend was created by Virgil), but becomes a story-teller herself. I think my favorite moments were when Lavinia was sinking into the simple pleasures of her normal life, but they worked so well, because of the way the literary quality of her life focused around her. It was shifting from the real to the unreal and becoming lost into which was which.
I think, in a lot of ways, the narrative structure of this piece and Lavinia's perspective gave me things that I never really got (but yearned for) from Firebrand. Probably in the way Le Guin effortlessly has the narrator show us what's going on without telling so that by the time Lavinia has explained something we've already seen it for ourselves. Lavinia spins the story of her own life, but she doesn't pressure you to take anything from it that you might not want.
Le Guin doesn't exactly pull any punches in this story, but Lavinia is so delicate in the way she describes what's happening that it lets her not dwell so much on the actions or feelings, but they attack at the end, sharp and sudden, leaving something with us that for me at least Le Guin's prose usually does.
I'd really recommend this, even if you aren't as familiar with the Aeneid.(less)