(Fiction; Mariner Books, 2008)
Ursula Le Guin is one of the preeminent science fiction writers of our time, but in interviews she argues that she has never written about the future. Her fantastic worlds allow her to address contemporary society. In the same way, her 2008 novel, Lavinia, set in the Rome of Virgil’s The Aeneid, is about the present, not the past. Since Lavinia, Aeneas’s destined wife, exists only on the sidelines in the original, Le Guin had the freedom to create a rich and psychologically complex character; the reader is left with a heroine who boldly and intelligently challenges Virgil’s telling. Above all, she demonstrates the holes in one of Western civilization’s grounding myths, a myth that resonates especially loudly in America today.