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Young princess of Latium encounters a poet a soothsayer who foretells her future to marry a Trojan hero named Aeneas and found a great kingdom and a mighty dynastyLavinia's mother has other plans to marry. It s interesting to contrast this with Margaret Atwood s Penelopiad Both explore one of the Big Classics The Aeneid in LeGuin s case the Odyssey in Atwood s from a female character s perspective LeGuin and Atwood are both stellar writers but I enjoyed Lavinia vastly LeGuin seems to have a real affection for her characters and that makes for a warmer humane book You can t tackle such a project without exploring the constraints placed on women in ancient times but again the authors take two very different approaches Atwood focuses on the oppression of women but LeGuin who has always shown an appreciation for the beauties of everyday life convincingly explores how women could find fulfillment and power within the roles allowed them

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Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

Her daughter off to an ambitious neighbouring king and her father is plagued with indecision But when a fleet of foreign warships sails into the mouth of the river Tiber Lavinia knows her destiny is calli. Being a lady classicist often reuires willful acts of cognitive dissonance It s not just that nearly all your extant source material was written by men about men for men it s also that Greek and Roman culture particularly the culture portrayed in the great epics the Iliad the Odyssey and the Aeneid is brutally testosterone fueled and flagrantly anti woman In epic the worst women are pure unadulterated evil monsters like Scylla Charybdis and the Sirens Slightly less evil are those who use their sexual wiles to distract men from their noble purposes Circe Calypso Dido And good women are those who simply shut the fuck up bear legitimate children and get out of the way Andromache Penelope Creusa This makes reading epic a challenging experience for any woman who is looking for than just a rollicking adventure storyI read the Aeneid in high school the whole thing in English and about half of it in Latin skipping around for the best bits or course and I was a huge pain in the ass I was convinced that Aeneas was a douche that Creusa got screwed over that Dido got royally screwed over and should have ripped Aeneas s balls off and that Lavinia was a breed sow with pretty hair My poor teacher tried again and again to calm me down to remind me of the historical context and cultural differences that should have been informing my reading of the poem to point out the elegance of the scansion or the cleverness of various poetic devices but I just didn t buy it I absorbed enough to ace the AP test but the Aeneid left a bad taste in my mouth When I got to college and read the Greek epics I was a bit better at detaching myself from the content of the poems so that I could appreciate their language and structure but I still had to work hard to keep a lid on my roiling feminist ire My biggest flaw as a historian the reason why I decided to teach Latin to middle schoolers instead of going to graduate school is that I get too emotionally invested in whatever I am studying and am unable to confine my judgments to the appropriate historical context I may acknowledge the fact that Aeneas was the model of pietas for his time and place but in the here and now he d be a douche and I just can t forget thatThis is why Lavinia is such a wonderful book Le Guin does that forgetting for me She is able to immerse herself in a different time and place and culture in a way that is judgment free and she sells this world in such a way that I buy it And like it And enjoy it The angry feminist pot ceases to boil I actually like this Aeneas He seems to be a nice guy I really like and identify with this Lavinia and I support her choices whereas in the Aeneid I simply pitied her for not having any choices I understand and appreciate a concept of pietas that is completely different from the kind of piety or rightness I seek in my own life in a way that I was never able to understand it when I was reading the actual Aeneid Part of what makes this novel work for me is the way she strips the story of Aeneas of its Augustan influences Vergil originally wrote the poem as a propaganda piece for the emperor okay maybe that wasn t his only purpose but he had to throw it in there to keep the people in charge happy and the ostentatious wealth and fantastical religion it promotes help divorce it from reality and make it harder to relate to Le Guin s simpler version feels much authentic and relatableI did find the book a little hard to get into and I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the relationship between Lavinia and Vergil But overall I found it an extremely enjoyable and readable story that left me with warm fuzzies inside It may actually motivate me to reread the Latin Aeneid sometime soon ish if I can find my old book and to not be full of fiery rage when I do That s a good thing right

Ursula K. Le Guin ô 9 characters

Like Spartan Helen I caused a war She caused hers by letting men who wanted her take her I caused mine because I wouldn't be given wouldn't be takenBy the sacred springs in the forest near her home Lavinia. I thought this book was boring There I said it Even though it had passion war bloodshed royal intrigue suicide I found it boring and it was difficult for me to convince myself to continue reading it I am a classic history buff which this novel has loads of but it still couldn t grip my interest The tone of the book was uiet and ghostly very in the past so I never felt anything immediate It was a story told by someone who remembered facts places names etc and spoke of emotion but I never felt it I think this book was well reviewed so I am sure many people would have a different experience I was just not that keen on it


10 thoughts on “Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

  1. says:

    Is it possible that Ursula K LeGuin can write a bad book?I guess anything is possible I could win the lottery get hit by a meteorite struck by lightning etc All very low probabilitiesAs expected this is beautiful

  2. says:

    DNF at page 180I’m sad I thought I’d love this but there doesn’t seem to be anything different in here than is in The Aeneid It’s just from Lavinia’s perspective but all the events are the same and I’m bored 😑

  3. says:

    I thought this book was boring There I said it Even though it had passion war bloodshed royal intrigue suicide I found it boring and it was difficult for me to convince myself to continue reading it I am a classic history buff which this novel has loads of but it still couldn't grip my interest The tone of the b

  4. says:

    “I am not the feminine voice you may have expected”When my father told me that Ursula LeGuin had put out a new novel I was as I usually am

  5. says:

    It's interesting to contrast this with Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad Both explore one of the Big Classics The Aeneid in LeGuin's case the Odyssey in Atwood's from a female character's perspective LeGuin and Atwoo

  6. says:

    Back when I studied Latin we were given bits of Virgil's Aeneid to translate I always found it to be a chore as poetry is challenging to translate than textbook translating exercises like Roma est in Italia Still I thought I knew the piece sufficiently until hearing that Ursula Le Guin had written a book about a character from Aeneid but having no idea who Lavinia was Having now read Aeneid in its translated e

  7. says:

    Oh never and forever aren't for mortals loveLe Guin writes wonderful women and stories that honor them Lavinia is a whole book written from the

  8. says:

    I think I'm incapable of disliking a Le Guin book So 5 stars it isI'm not a huge fan of the retelling of mythological stories and the like from the stand point of a woman But this was written by Le Guin and here I am I have had this on my shelf since shortly after it was written I bought it in hardcover in Missoula where my brother lives B

  9. says:

    Being a lady classicist often reuires willful acts of cognitive dissonance It's not just that nearly all your extant source material was written by men about men for men it's also that Greek and Roman culture particularly

  10. says:

    In truth he gave me nothing but a name and I have filled it with myself Yet without him would I even have a name? I have never blamed him Even a poet cannot get everything rightIf you were looking for a uote do describe the central concern of this book the above might do itI was deeply moved by this book and the tale it weaves and t