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Owner of Pallas

Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin. Like Lavinia, I have existed in obscurity and silence for most of my life. I was raised in a puppy mill and spent my first five years confined indoors, with only fellow canine inmates for company or comfort. This was my fate until! I was heroically rescued by Secondhand Hounds and cared for by wonderful people. Four months ago, I met my person, Pallas, and we have been inseparable ever since. Now that I am safely in my forever-home and with the help of my new pack (Ryoga, Bartolo, Hobbes, Roadie and Maki), I have begun to discover my bark and find my place in the world. Perhaps that is why I related to Lavinia so completely.

The titular character of the book is an interpretation of the princess Lavinia from Virgil's The Aeneid. Though she is integral to the original story, she has no actual lines and very little description. Le Guin gives Lavinia a voice and takes us to an ancient world that is ethereal and divine; a braid of historical fiction, poetry and feminist musings. Lavinia herself is a nuanced creature who can walk between worlds and time. It is an uncanny delight to travel

Though her only historical claim to fame is her marriage to Aeneas, the legendary founder of Rome, Lavina does not define herself by this relationship. As a dog who was raised for the sole purpose of giving birth to puppies, I was drawn to Lavinia's independence and appreciated her wry reflections on the dynamics of her species: “I can never get used to the fact, though I know it, that women are born cynics. Men have to learn cynicism. Infant girls could teach it to them.”

So true. I am suspicious of everything - a squirrel in the garden, a rawhide bone casually rolled under the bed, the nature of the canine condition. My male counterparts, however, are gloriously accepting of these mysteries and it is refreshing to witness their unquestioning confidence. Any society needs such balance, be it a wolf pack or a bygone tribe of Trojans. Le Guin masterfully explores the violence of love and war without judgement or rancor, unveiling a uniquely benevolent view of gender politics.

This book seems timeless, with words of celestial wisdom that float off the page. Though based on a classic, it feels entirely original and is a perfect read for spring. So, my new friends, pick this one up and let brave Lavinia live a little while longer.