is actually very good. Ursula Le Guin’s writing is excellent, though I must say that I’m not as familiar with the last six books of The Aeneid on which this novel is based, as I am with the first.
Thought it rather interesting how Le Guin refrains from using external sources, i.e. the petty jealousies of the gods, from influencing the actions of the characters. The gods are still present, though they don’t play as active a part in the story. Here, Le Guin makes the characters culpable for their actions; their decisions based more on an internal choice rather than from an outside influence. For instance, consider Lavinia’s mother, Amata and her interest in her nephew Turnus. In Vergil’s poem, Juno influences Amata to consider Turnus as the perfect suitor for her daughter’s hand in marriage—Juno’s efforts to thwart Aeneas from fulfilling his prophecy. Le Guin’s version describes Juno as an internal being that every woman has, like a man’s Genius, “a divine spark” that’s already a part of your deepest self and guides your choices in life. Here, Amata’s initial emotional interest in her nephew is compared to that of a mother’s love for a son (The reader’s told that she lost both of her sons to illness when they were quite young; Turnus becomes a substitute.). Though, this initial emotional interest gradually deepens to something obsessive and almost incestuous as Amata begins to consider the young, virile Turnus a better man and better king than her own old husband.
The novel also contains an interesting discussion of piety vs. virtue in relation to the proof of manhood, which allows the reader to compare the characteristics of Aeneas with those of his two sons, thereby explaining their failures and/or success in life.
However, I didn’t quite enjoy the section describing the three years Lavinia shares with Aeneas. There, Lavinia regresses to a clingy and needy wife. I understand that she wants to spend every possible moment she can with her husband, given her knowledge that he will die in three years time. But that scene where she plots to keep Aeneas by her side, seemed out of character, that it was more like something her mother would have done. I was wondering if perhaps this characterization was originally described in Vergil’s poem, which Le Guin later incorporated into her own text? This is something I’ll have to keep in mind when I revisit the poem.