Sunday, April 06, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

"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.

ISBN10: 0151014248
ISBN13: 9780151014248

288 pages
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.
Publication Date: April 21, 2008
Author Website:


1 comment:

Sherry said...

I added a link to your review to my Saturday Review of BOoks at Semicolon ( because I've been thinking about reading this one and I wanted to save a link to your review. Please feel free to add links to your book review posts each Saturday if you wish.