PRAISE FOR URSULA K. LE GUIN
"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
[Le Guin] focuses this engaging novel on Aeneas's Latin wife, who is only sketchily depicted in the epic poem. In simple, stately prose that does no violence to Vergil's work, Le Guin presents the rough, unpretentious dignity of the ancient pagans. She also portrays daily life in the Bronze Age, some time after the 13th century B.C., when duty and responsibility glue the community together…there is plenty of action in Lavinia. Even her happy marriage is filled with musings cleverly ancient yet modernmost compellingly on the expectations of women. By telling this story from its heroine's clear, forthright perspective, Le Guin has taken the cipher that is Vergil's Lavinia and given her a new life.
The Washington Post
In the Aeneid, the only notable lines Virgil devotes to Aeneas' second wife, Lavinia, concern an omen: the day before Aeneus lands in Latinum, Lavinia's hair is veiled by a ghost fire, presaging war. Le Guin's masterful novel gives a voice to Lavinia, the daughter of King Latinus and Queen Amata, who rule Latinum in the era before the founding of Rome. Amata lost her sons to a childhood sickness and has since become slightly mad. She is fixated on marrying Lavinia to Amata's nephew, Turnus, the king of neighboring Rutuli. It's a good match, and Turnus is handsome, but Lavinia is reluctant. Following the words of an oracle, King Latinus announces that Lavinia will marry Aeneas, a newly landed stranger from Troy; the news provokes Amata, the farmers of Latinum, and Turnus, who starts a civil war. Le Guin is famous for creating alternative worlds (as in Left Hand of Darkness), and she approaches Lavinia's world, from which Western civilization took its course, as unique and strange as any fantasy. It's a novel that deserves to be ranked with Robert Graves's I, Claudius. (Apr.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Adult/High School- This novel takes a minor character from Vergil's Aeneid and creates a thoughtful, moving tale of prophecy, myth, and self-fulfillment. Lavinia is the teen princess of Latium, a small but important kingdom in pre-Roman Italy. As she moves into womanhood, she feels pressure from her parents to choose one of her many suitors as both her husband and the future ruler of the kingdom. But the oracles of the sacred springs say she will marry an unknown foreigner. This stranger is none other than Vergil's Aeneus, proud hero, king without a country, and the man who will lay down the foundations of the Roman Empire. Their marriage sparks a war to control the region; while readers don't see the glorious battles, they do get the surprisingly moving perspective of the home front through Lavinia's eyes. Best known for her works of fantasy, Le Guin takes a more historical approach here by toning down the magical elements; gods and prophecies have a vital role in the protagonist's life, but they are presented as concepts and rituals, not as deities playing petty games with the lives of mortals. This shifts the focus of Vergil's plot from action to character, allowing Le Guin to breathe life into a character who never utters a word in the original story. Lavinia is quite compelling as she transforms from a spirited princess into a queen full of wisdom who makes a profound impact on her people. The author's language and style are complex, making this a title for sophisticated teens.-Matthew L. Moffett, Pohick Regional Library, Burke, VA
Le Guin (Powers, 2007, etc.) departs from her award-winning fantasy and science-fiction novels to amplify a story told only glancingly in Virgil's epic The Aeneid. The story is that of the eponymous princess of Latium (a royal city before Rome existed), promised by her parents, King Latinus and Queen Amata, to neighboring Rutilian king Turnus (who is Amata's nephew). But omens decree otherwise, and Lavinia weds Trojan warrior-adventurer Aeneas, a bereaved and conflicted husband, son and father who will, over the years, earn the initially reluctant Lavinia's undying respect and love. Though this unlikely heroine receives only token mention in Virgil's original, Le Guin brings her to vibrant life as a dutiful virgin whose world is circumscribed by daily routines; who is the uncooperative cynosure of several suitors' eyes; and who eventually distances herself from the misrule of her stepson Ascanius (Aeneas's successor), biding her time until the new metropolis of Rome is made worthy of its intrepid founder. Lavinia's inner strength emerges in dreamlike "conversations" with the poet who created her, and in her intuitive understanding of her father's just rule, her husband's justifiable ambitions and her own unending obligations. Le Guin has researched this ancient world assiduously, and her measured, understated prose captures with equal skill the permutations of established ritual and ceremony and the sensations of the battlefield ("The snarling trumpets rang out again. A group of horsemen far out in the fields moved forward in a solid mass like a shadow across the ripening crops . . . through the hot slanting light full of dust"). Arguably her best novel, and an altogether worthy companionvolume to one of the Western world's greatest stories.