Similar to Black Ships (review), Lavinia comes to light through Virgil’s Aeneid. But it picks up the story where Black Ships ends – with Aeneas’s marriage to King Latinus’s daughter, Lavinia, after defeating the enemies of Latium.
Lavinia, who never speaks in the original Aeneid, visits a sacred cave where she meets the shade of the dying Virgil. He tells her of what is to come – of Aeneas, the coming battles, her future child and more. You know the end of the story – or you think you do – before Aeneas arrives. But you don’t know how it ends.
Even though the story isn’t new, I found it compelling. Le Guin’s style of writing sucked me in and I put the book down only twice before finishing it. I wonder, though, if I had read the Aeneid and knew the story well, if I would have found it as compelling. I think so, especially since Le Guin gives voice to Lavinia, but I’ll never know for certain.
I especially appreciate the author’s end note, which is more of a historical essay. Here, Le Guin explains why she chose to re-tell the last part of the Aeneid. She talks about the geography of the region and the sources she used to pinpoint the locations in Lavinia. She also discusses what parts – or rather, what emphasis of the original Aeneid – she minimized and why.
While both Lavinia and Black Ships are great reads, perhaps especially for people like me who never had the opportunity to read the Latin Aeneid, I enjoyed Lavinia a bit more. Perhaps it’s just the romance of Lavinia’s story; perhaps it’s the writing of a more seasoned author. I don’t know. But I simply did not want this book to end. Rating: Very Good+ (Click the image above to purchase the novel from Amazon. Fuzzy History receives a small commission for the referral.)