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Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin


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Fiction:  Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin

Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin - Troy has fallen. Rome is a tiny village by the seven hills... At the end of Vergil’s epic poem The Aeneid, the Trojan hero Aeneas,

Title:  Lavinia
Author:  Ursula Le Guin
Isbn:  9780753827840
Year:  2010
Format:  Paperback
Category:  Fiction

Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin - Troy has fallen. Rome is a tiny village by the seven hills... At the end of Vergil’s epic poem The Aeneid, the Trojan hero Aeneas, following his destiny, is about to marry the Italian girl Lavinia. But in the poem, she has played only the slightest part, and has never spoken a word.

Daughter of a local king, Lavinia has lived in peace and freedom, till suitors came seeking her hand, and a foreign fleet sailed up the Tiber. Now her mother wants her to marry handsome, ambitious Turnus, but strange omens, prophecies spoken by the voices of the sacred trees and springs, foretell that she must marry a stranger. And that she will be the cause of a bitter war. And that her husband will not live long.

Lavinia is determined to follow her own destiny. And when she talks with the spirit of the poet in the sacred grove, she begins to see that destiny. So she gains her own voice, learning how to tell the story Vergil left untold — her story, her life, and the love of her life.
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Times Literary Supplement May 22, 2009 (Excerpts)

...Ursula Le Guin’s vivid novel gives Lavinia a voice, without any serious pretence that the experience of a princess of the Bronze Age can be recalled. ... The world she describes in tender detail is a pastoral utopia, sufficiently alien from modern values to catch the interest of an author who has always chosen to examine the workings of contemporary society by imagining something wholly different....

...The most haunting passages of the novel imagine Lavinia meeting the shade of Virgil at the sacred shrine of Albunea, where spirits communicate with the living. These encounters are necessarily perplexing, for Lavinia knows that she has no life outside Virgil’s poem.... Virgil is brought to acknowledge that he has not done justice to the self-possessed, dark young woman who stands before him: “I thought you were a blonde!” Here Ursula Le Guin makes her authority felt, insisting on a different kind of reality.... But this is not a matter of Ursula Le Guin affirming a superior understanding. Virgil’s dignity and stature are given their full weight, and a sense of his sadness suffuses the novel....

...Lavinia’s enduring vitality lies in her love for her flawed and courageous husband, who represents a society with ‘certain homely but delicate values, such as ... loyalty, modesty, and responsibility.’ Ursula Le Guin has her own modesty, and would not claim to have superseded Virgil’s achievement. Ursula Le Guin's novel ... is a moving testament to the conversations that great writers sustain through the centuries.

— Dinah Birch
Times Literary Supplement
May 22, 2009


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