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  • Posted July 13, 2011

    Wonderfully written - highly recommend for those interested in ancient history

    The Aeneid retold from a different perspective. Ancient history is a favorite topic of mine. I really enjoy Roman history in particular. When I came across this book, I was so pleasantly surprised! In the past, I have looked for fictitious novels set around this time period and have been disappointed in the selection. Usually I find the only books written around this time period with female main characters are cheesy romance novels...the type of books I am not interested in. However, Lavinia was a breath of fresh air. The book is based around a character from Virgil's Aeneid who did not have much of a voice in his epic tale. I read the Aeneid and was not disappointed one bit by Lavinia. Ursula K. Le Guin does a brilliant job in retelling Virgil's story from Lavinia's perspective. If you are someone who is interested in ancient history and want a book that is not some cheesy romance novel, I highly recommend Lavinia. This book will definitely remain a keeper among the other books I have read and will probably be read again in the future!

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  • Posted March 5, 2010

    Countering aggression with compassion

    Other than Odds Bodkin's entertainingly abridged and bardic retelling of Homer's Odyssey, I've never much cared for the excessive machismo of such ancient tales. Vergil's Aeneas is balanced by Lavinia, a minor character transformed into a sublime heroine, as only LeGuin can do. Some battle gore inevitably remains, but always couched within the larger human enterprise of raising a child, directing a household, and, when necessary, countering aggression with compassion.

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  • Posted July 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    An amazing retelling of a few lines from The Aeneid

    Anyone who knows Virgil's The Aeneid will either love or hate Le Guin's retelling of the life of Lavinia as it intersects Aeneas's story. Le Guin, as always presents a tale replete with layers of conflict and underlying social commentary. Some of the most obvious is the masculine and feminine roles, the duties of a ruler to her/his people, the view of women as property and powerless, the tragedies of war, and, oddly, the inner conflict of homosexuals in a heterosexually dominated culture. Whether these elements will be endearing to lovers of Virgil's story, or if this will be seen as a good edition to the overall telling of Aeneas's tale is left to be seen.

    However, for those not caught up in this as an extension of Virgil, the story actually has legs of its own. Many reviewers have said that it's not one of Le Guin's best, but I beg to differ. The same was said about C.S. Lewis's retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche in Til We Have Faces, although Lewis is quoted as having considered it his greatest work, and I feel much the same way about this novel. It takes a lot of work and effort to get the history correct, and not only that, but Le Guin spends great lengths describing everything about the culture and time period-clothes, food, rituals, architecture, gender interplay, landscape, and much more-so that the reader can imagine every last detail of each scene. The early Latin culture becomes illuminated so that the story itself can live in an accurately detailed world.

    My guess is that since there is no magic in this story, outside of some prophesies and allusions to the intervention of the gods, people who love Le Guin's usual writing couldn't quite get into this one. However, I believe that it will stand the test of time as one of her greatest works, and hopefully it will be seen as an addition to Virgil's great epic. Le Guin herself reveals her love for The Aeneid in the afterword, pining after the days when people were still taught Latin as part of their education, so that they could be enriched by the words of Virgil. She insists that people will not be able to understand the full beauty and magnitude of the work unless they read it in the original Latin.

    -Lindsey Miller,

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