by Ursula K. Le Guin

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Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

From a masterful writer of myth and fantasy, a beautiful reimagining of one of the most pivotal characters in Virgil's Aeneid


As the story goes, Virgil’s hero fights to claim the king’s daughter, Lavinia, with whom he is destined to build 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. Lavinia grows up knowing nothing but peace and freedom until her suitors arrive. Her mother wants her to marry handsome, ambitious Turnus. But omens and prophecies spoken by the sacred springs say she must marry a foreigner, that she will be the cause of a bitter war, and that her husband will not live long. When a fleet of Trojan ships sails up the Tiber, Lavinia decides to take her destiny into her own hands and tells us the story of her life—and her life's greatest love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780156033688
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 04/10/2009
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 146,461
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Lexile: 960L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

URSULA K. LE GUIN was born in Berkeley, California, in 1929, and passed away in Portland, Oregon, in 2018. She published over sixty books of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, children’s literature, and translation. She was the recipient of a National Book Award, six Hugo and five Nebula awards, and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


Portland, Oregon

Date of Birth:

October 21, 1929

Place of Birth:

Berkeley, California


B.A., Radcliffe College; M.A., Columbia University, 1952

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher


"She never loses touch with her reverence for the immense what is."—Margaret Atwood

"Like all great writers of fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin creates imaginary worlds that restore us, hearts eased, to our own."—Boston Globe

'There is no writer with an imagination as forceful and delicate as Le Guin's."—Grace Paley

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Lavinia 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Lizbiz5396 More than 1 year ago
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!
Lindsey_Miller More than 1 year ago
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,
professa More than 1 year ago
I probably would never have heard of this book if I had not come across a list of four books for people who are interested in Rome and its history. I love Rome and have been there 13 times so I decided why not!? The book is about Lavinia, the wife of Aeneas from "The Aeneid." She is barely mentioned in that book so Ursula K. Le Guin decided to write a novel giving Lavinia some life and background. This book is listed as the second one to read in the four--"Roma" by Steven Saylor, "Lavinia," "The Aeneid" by Virgil, and "The Secrets of Rome (Love and Death in the Eternal City)" by Corrado Augias. I must also admit that the series of books intrigued me because I had read part of "The Aeneid" in my fourth year Latin class in high school. I had always intended to read the whole book in English and had long owned a copy of it. I must say I enjoyed this book and would recommend it on its own merits even if the reader did not intend to read all four books. I found it interesting and fun. I liked the idea that Lavinia meets/dreams Virgil when she visited the sacred grove of her family and learns about what he is writing. It seemed an original idea to me. Since I have now read through Book 9 of "The Aeneid," I have run into information about several of the characters in "Lavinia," though the heroine herself has so far only been mentioned as the unnamed daughter of the Latin King. Several of the events mentioned in "The Aeneid" were fleshed out with added interest by Le Guin. As I said I enjoyed this book and also would recommend "Roma" as a fun view of Rome's history starting in !000 BC. I am also enjoying "The Aeneid" though I have to admit I searched the Internet and found a prose translation rather than deal with worrying about end-line punctuation. And every once in a while all the names get to me, and I take a break by reading a mystery or two. The four books make up a project I am most certainly happy to have chosen!
Antheras on LibraryThing 8 days ago
"All my life since Aeneas¿ death might seem a weaving torn out of the loom unfinished, a shapeless tangle of threads making nothing, but it is not so; for my mind returns as the shuttle returns always to the starting place, finding the pattern, going on with it."Lavinia, the daughter of King Latinus and Queen Amata, enjoyed a typical girlhood as the daughter of a nobleman in the time before the founding of Rome. A life of peace and freedom that is, until the day she saw a line of great, black ships coming up the Tiber from the sea. Her mother has determined that she marry her kinsman Turnus, but the omen Lavinia received at the sacred springs tells that she is destined to marry a foreigner and start a bitter war. These ships presage the epic war for a kingdom and the founding of a great new empire, with Lavinia herself as the prize.The arrival of the ships marks the meeting of Lavinia¿s story with Virgil¿s epic poem The Aeneid. While Virgil¿s poem tells Aeneas¿ story, Lavinia herself is mentioned only once ¿ on the day before his landing in Latinum when her hair is veiled by a ghost fire, an omen for the coming war. In Lavinia, Ursula K. Le Guin gives voice to an invisible heroine, brings to life an ancient world and creates a powerful companion to one of western literature¿s greatest works.Lavinia is a book of love and war, ritual and duty. Le Guin has crafted a fascinating story of Lavinia¿s life in the Regia (the women¿s quarters in a great house), filled with her duties as the only daughter of a noble house: keeping the storerooms; joining in the rituals of worship in the atrium; and keeping the peace between a mother driven mad with grief and a father quick to punishment. Well-researched with epic battles and many interwoven threads, Le Guin has captured the spirit of Virgil¿s work and presented it faithfully in her own measured, lyric prose. Le Guin¿s Lavinia is a strong, fascinating woman, with a tale to rival any hero of old.
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Ed-Philosopher More than 1 year ago
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.