Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Lavinia” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.81  ·  Rating details ·  9,763 ratings  ·  1,463 reviews
In a richly imagined, beautiful new novel, an acclaimed writer gives an epic heroine her voice.

The Aeneid, Virgil's hero fights to claim the king’s daughter, Lavinia, with whom he is destined to found an empire. Lavinia herself never speaks a word. Now, Ursula K. Le Guin gives Lavinia a voice in a novel that takes us to the half-wild world of ancient Italy, when Rome was a
Hardcover, First Edition, 279 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Harcourt, Inc.
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Lavinia, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Jeff Frane
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,763 ratings  ·  1,463 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Lavinia
Apr 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Is it possible that Ursula K. LeGuin can write a bad book?

I guess anything is possible: I could win the lottery, get hit by a meteorite, struck by lightning, etc. All very low probabilities.

As expected, this is beautifully written and crafted with an inspired structure. Telling the story of Lavinia, who in Vergil’s great work Aenid, did not speak a word; LeGuin describes the princess’s story in that of an almost pre-historic and pagan setting.

This is really the element of this story that I will
Charlotte May
DNF at page 180

I’m sad, I thought I’d love this but there doesn’t seem to be anything different in here than is in The Aeneid. It’s just from Lavinia’s perspective but all the events are the same, and I’m bored 😑
Jun 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, 2018-odyssey
"Oh, never and forever aren't for mortals, love."

Le Guin writes wonderful women and stories that honor them. Lavinia is a whole book written from the perspective of a character that never utters a word in Vergil's epic, The Aeneid. It tells of all the life that happens between "the glorious battles", the farming, the herding, hunting and reading of the auspices, caring for the hearth gods, weaving, songs and observances -- the reasons we war in the first place.

I think if you have lost a grea
Jul 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  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
May 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
"In truth he gave me nothing but a name, and I have filled it with myself. Yet without him would I even have a name? I have never blamed him. Even a poet cannot get everything right."

If you were looking for a quote do describe the central concern of this book, the above might do it.

I was deeply moved by this book and the tale it weaves and the respect with which it treats its characters and subjects like love, fate, and the power of stories. I love its intertextuality and how much it is in conve

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 unsu
The late Ursula K. Le Guin hits it out of the park, as always, with Lavinia.

Our heroine is the human MacGuffin from the second half of Virgil’s Aeneid. The beautiful young princess of Latium (one of many petty kingdoms in the mythic age of pre-Roman Italy), she was betrothed to the warlord Turnus, but an oracle told her father that her rightful husband was in fact Aeneas, the last scion of the royal house of Troy, who had just landed on their shores. These being Greco-Roman mythological figures,
Jul 01, 2008 rated it liked it
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 don't read a lot of YA books and can't say for sure if they are similar to this book, but during the reading I was thinking - this is how YA should be: with deep meaning, with characters as model roles to learn from, and if it's historical - help to learn something you won't maybe sit down to read yourself.
But bear in mind that this is not a kind of YA only YA readers would read. It's kind of Harry Potter-ish or Lord of the Rings-ish YA that everyone would enjoy.
Actually, the writing was a lit
Apr 23, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good stuff, great writing.
Sep 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Michelle Stockard Miller
Amazing! Le Guin writes so beautifully.
Roxana Chirilă
Jun 06, 2021 rated it liked it
I found "Lavinia" dull, despite believing, at the same time, that it's masterfully written. Square that circle, if you can.

About three quarters of the way in, I wondered what was left to tell of the tale, and finished it simply to finish it.

"Lavinia" is a story based on Virgil's "Aeneid" (which I still haven't read) - more precisely, on the story if Aeneas's wife in Italy, when he finishes his epic quest that led his people from Troy to Carthage to the province where his descendants will, event
I am not the feminine voice you may have expected. Resentment is not what drives me to write my story. Anger, in part, perhaps. But not an easy anger. I long for justice, but I do not know what justice is. It is hard to be betrayed. It is harder to know you made betrayal inevitable.

Lavinia begins in the character's childhood, following her as suitors seek to marry her to gain her father's crown and her mother pressures her to marry Turnus of Ardea. She speaks with the poet Virgil in a vision. Th
Jul 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
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
Mar 31, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: retellings
The writing here is very beautiful. But the story failed to grip me. We were in Lavinia's head the whole time and I cannot tell you anything about what kind of person she is. She is too passive and lethargic. Did not like the meta aspect of the story. The Aeneas part was over just after it started. Glimpses of their connection were so captivating but they were just glimpses. I think this story would have been much more affecting if Ursula K. Le Guin was freer from the source material like Miller ...more
I enjoyed this a lot. Despite being a fairly short book, it read very slowly, but in a good way. Lavinia takes her time telling her story, and you feel like you're there with her. I loved the details of life in ancient Italy, the power of people's faith in an uncertain world, and how strength comes in many different forms. ...more
May 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
No doubt someone with my name, Lavinia, did exist, but she may have been so different from my own idea of myself, or my poet's idea of me, that it only confuses me to think about her. As far as I know, it was my poet who gave me any reality at all.

I have recently been following a thread of personal interest, reading some books that give a voice to minor female characters from classic literature. In Lavinia, Ursula K. Le Guin retells the story of Vergil's The Aeneid from the point of view of
Linda Robinson
Jul 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am compelled to swear mightily. If you don't understand what JFC means. Good luck to you. Here I am. However many books I have claimed on this site, it's a third of what I've read. A quarter. A percentage. My profile claims how reading is my life. My parents would come home from a night out, when I was left to babysit however many kids there were - 2, 3, 6. and I'd be reading. My mother would ask "have you been reading all night?" And I'd answer yes. "Where are they?" And I'd have to answer. I ...more
Mar 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, fiction, italy
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
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
In her novel Lavinia, Ursula Le Guin takes the character of Lavinia who gets little more than a tertiary mention in Virgil’s The Aeneid, and provides her with voice, character, and background. The novel is in the first person point of view with Lavinia speaking directly to the reader. She describes her childhood, upbringing, meeting with and subsequent marriage to Aeneas, the birth of their son, Aeneas’ death, and her son’s rise to power.

Lavinia is portrayed as a strong woman determined to fulf
Jul 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: italian-fiction
B+ for concept; C+ for execution.

Vergil’s Aeneid follows Aeneas’s travels from the fall of Troy, to his escape to Syracuse, to his sail to Carthage (and the Ill-fated love affair with Queen Dido). Escaping her embrace, he returns to Syracuse to travel to the depths of the underworld, where the fates foretell Aeneas will lead his people to the Western Italian shore, and found a great new empire. Back in school, we used to joke “No one wished it longer.”

As usual, Le Guin provides the woman’s pers
Mar 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Sacred Order ...: JANUARY BOOK OF THE MONTH 2 5 Jan 29, 2020 12:10PM  
Digerati Buchgeme...: trying to remember the Aeneid... 2 7 Sep 18, 2018 06:45PM  
Digerati Buchgeme...: Poets and Prescience 1 3 Mar 01, 2018 08:28AM  
Goodreads Authors...: The late great Ursula LeGuin 3 13 Jan 29, 2018 10:39PM  
Into the Forest: Lavinia no spoilers 26 28 Dec 28, 2017 06:18PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Penelopiad
  • A Thousand Ships
  • Galatea
  • The Children of Jocasta
  • House of Names
  • The Silence of the Girls
  • For The Winner (Golden Apple Trilogy #2)
  • The King Must Die (Theseus, #1)
  • For The Most Beautiful (Golden Apple Trilogy #1)
  • Antigone Rising: The Subversive Power of the Ancient Myths
  • The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
  • Piranesi
  • La Catedrática
  • Rise of Princes (Homeric Chronicles #2)
  • A Memory of Wind
  • The Song of Achilles
  • Vittoria Cottage (Dering Family, #1)
  • Mary Reilly
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Ursula K. Le Guin 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. She lived in Portland, Orego ...more

Articles featuring this book

Where do you go for fantastical, must-read book recommendations? This summer we're turning to the experts of illusion,...
141 likes · 36 comments
“Not even need and love can defeat fate...” 49 likes
“In our loss and fear we craved the acts of religion, the ceremonies that allow us to admit our helplessness, our dependence on the great forces we do not understand.” 41 likes
More quotes…