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Ursula K. Le Guin

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Lavinia, by Ursula K. Le Guin

May 2010

Lavinia -- Orion, UI

May 2009

Cover for Lavinia, by Ursula K. Le Guin

April 2008

Cover for Lavinia, trade paperback

Mariner Books
April 2009

Lavinia: BSFA Shortlist

Lavinia: Locus Award

The Best Books of 2008

“A time-traveling Virgil meets the young wife he tosses off in a few lines in The Aeneid, and gasps, ‘I thought you were a blonde.’ Le Guin’s wit and scholarship burnish this beautiful, rewarding and unjustly overlooked novel, for which she retooled her grasp of Latin. A believable immersion into an ancient world and the antique virtues of loyalty and grace.” — Karen Long, Book Editor, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Sunday, December 14, 2008. [complete article]

Online Reading

Audiofile of UKL's Lavinia reading at the Corvallis-Benton County Library MP3 [24Mb] Audiofile link


12 March 2010

Ursula Le Guin’s Lavinia, by danhartland

“One of the joys of Lavinia, though, is that Le Guin resists the obvious way to rectify this under-writing. ‘I am not the feminine voice you may have expected,’ Lavinia warns us. ‘Resentment is not what drives me to write my story.’”

1 November 2009

Lavinia “is one of the most eloquent, profound and moving novels I have ever read and it should have won every major literary award out there.” [complete review]

Jo Fletcher’s Picks

The Independent
8 September 2009

“With this characteristically graceful retelling of the final stages of Virgil’s Aeneid, one of the master fabulists of our time crowns a great career. A luminous novel that should appeal across genres and generations.”

"The Hit List"

The Subtle Knife
1 August 2009

“...through the elusive voice that speaks here, shifting and uncoiling like a thread of smoke in still air, Le Guin addresses a wide range of issues — the use of power, the differences (as always!) between men and women, the meaning of war, cruelty and violence; and the nature of the creative and artistic process of storytelling and mythmaking itself.” [complete review]

Times On Line
28 June 2009

“...ranging through historical, political and spiritual arenas, across centuries, through dreams and poems and geographical fact... This is a work of passion, written with cool expertise: a cracker.” [complete review]

— Lucy Atkins
Summer reading: fiction roundup

The Australian
5 July 2009

“Le Guin cleverly and playfully... asserts Lavinia as a real person in her own right, while at the same time leaving her subject to her immutable role in The Aeneid. The contrast is intriguing, and adds a surprising and interesting depth to what would in any event have been an exceedingly well-told tale.”

— George Williams
Expanding on Virgil

The Telegraph
21 June 2009

“Her achievement is to complement the original epic so distinctively, as if in a dialogue or dance with the poet who inspired her.”

— John Garth
[complete review]

The Guardian
14 June 2009

“She is a social novelist in the best sense of the term [...] her ultimate concern is with the real world. In this novel, Virgil’s imaginary Italy allows her a manipulatory freedom which a more realistic method would not.” [complete review]

Tobias Hill
The Guardian

Times Literary Supplement
May 22, 2009

...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 Le Guin makes her authority felt, insisting on a different kind of reality.... But this is not a matter of 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.’ Le Guin has her own modesty, and would not claim to have superseded Virgil’s achievement. Her novel ... is a moving testament to the conversations that great writers sustain through the centuries.

— Dinah Birch
Times Literary Supplement
May 22, 2009

The Guardian

“[A] subtly moving, playful, tactfully told story, a novel that brought me to tears more than once.” Charlotte Higgins, The Guardian, 23 May 2009. [complete review]

Death Ray Magazine

“...a perfectly balanced blend of feeling, metre and storytelling...” Review of Lavinia by Guy Haley, Death Ray. [complete review] [240Kb PDF]

Los Angeles Times

“Everywhere Le Guin catches the rhythms of the great epic, echoes them, riffs. In a way, this is a jazzy book, playing in odd syncopation with a massive canonical work... I found myself delighted, even stunned, by the freshness of Le Guin’s prose...”

— Jay Parini
Los Angeles Times Calendar Online
20 April 2007
[complete review]

Portland Oregonian

“Everyone could use a forest of Albunea, a place where dreams, ghosts, owls, oracles and ancestors offer hints about your fate and advice about difficult decisions. In Lavinia, Ursula K. Le Guin’s brilliant new novel, a great deal is illuminated in Albunea, not least of which is the true character of Lavinia....”

— Tricia Snell
Portland Oregonian
[complete review]


“Fantasist and SF writer Le Guin turns her attention and her considerable talent to fleshing out a secondary character mentioned briefly in Virgil’s masterpiece, The Aeneid.... The compulsively readable Le Guin earns kudos for fashioning a winning combination of history and mythology featuring an unlikely heroine imaginatively plucked from literary obscurity.”

— Margaret Flanagan
15 March 2008

Library Journal Starred Review

Library Journal starred reviewLibrary Journal’s starred review calls Lavinia “Le Guin’s brilliant reimagining of the last six books of Virgil’s epic poem.” The reviewer says “...this beautiful and moving novel is a love offering to one of the world’s great poets...” “Highly recommended.”

— Library Journal
1 March 2008

Kirkus Starred Review

Kirkus Starred Review“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.... Arguably her best novel, and an altogether worthy companion volume to one of the Western world’s greatest stories.”

— Kirkus Reviews
15 February 2008

Publishers Weekly Starred Review

PW starred review“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.

Publishers Weekly Starred Review
24 December 2007

Kirkus Spring & Summer Preview

“National Book Award-winner Ursula K. Le Guin’s decision to give voice to one of Vergil’s most stoically silent characters in the Aeneid will likely have devotees listening with rapt attention.”

“...what may be the crowning magnum opus of her storied career...”

Kirkus Spring & Summer Preview [2.3Mb pdf]
January 2008

The Christian Science Monitor

Ursula Le Guin Champions Vergil’s Neglected Heroine.” Yvonne Zipp reviews Lavinia.

Entertainment Weekly

“...elegant and eloquent....”


Interviews & appearances

Between the Covers

22 July 2008: Jim Schumock interviews UKL for KBOO radio. Streaming audio.

Ursula K. Le Guin on “All Things Considered”

NPR’s Jacki Lyden interviews UKL on “All Things Considered,” 26 April 2008. (Audio)

Video: Ursula K. Le Guin at Powell’s Bookstore

UKL at Powell’s Bookstore. Reading, Q&A about Lavinia. Video courtesy of pdxjustice Media Productions. 22 April 2008. (Video)

Ursula K. Le Guin told the Kirkus interviewer:

“In the Aeneid, Lavinia is a mere convention, the blond maiden, a background figure barely sketched. Yet this is the woman the hero is commanded by the gods to marry. She so evidently has a voice, and Vergil knew how to listen to women; but he didn’t have time to listen to her. He’s in the war part of his story and has to get all the battles fought. So all Lavinia gets to do is blush. I felt it was time she got to tell her view of things. Inevitably this is also an interpretation of the hero’s story, in which I think Vergil shows the price of public triumph as personal tragedy.

“The first time I really read the Aeneid was in my seventies, when I got enough Latin into my head at last to read it in Latin. Vergil is truly untranslatable; his poetry is the music of his language, and it gets lost in any other. Reading it at last, hearing that incredible voice, was a tremendous joy. And Lavinia’s voice and her story came to me out of that joy. A gift from a great giver.”

Cynthia Crossen interviews UKL for the Wall Street Journal

“Ursula K. Le Guin began her research for her new book, Lavinia, by reading Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid in the original Latin. ‘Very, very slowly,’ she said in an interview. ‘Ten lines a day.’” [continued offsite]


About the Book

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.



I know that there will be far greater kings of far greater kingdoms than Latinus of Latium, my father.” [continued]

I went to the salt beds by the mouth of the river, in the May of my nineteenth year, to get salt for the sacred meal. Tita and Maruna came with me, and my father sent an old house-slave and a boy with a donkey to carry the salt home. It’s only a few miles up the coast, but we made an overnight picnic of it, loading the poor little donkey with food, taking all day to get there, setting up camp on a grassy dune above the beaches of the river and the sea. The five of us had supper round the fire, and told stories and sang songs while the sun set in the sea and the May dusk turned blue and bluer. Then we slept under the seawind.” [continued offsite]


Map of Latium, by Jeffery C. Mathison




Now available

April 2008
ISBN13: 9780151014248
ISBN10: 0151014248

Powell's Bookstore

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