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Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia (LOA #281): Malafrena / Stories and Songs (Library of America Ursula K. Le Guin Edition) Hardcover – September 6, 2016
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About the Author
Brian Attebery, editor, is professor of English at Idaho State University and the editor of Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. He edited The Norton Book of Science Fiction (1997) with Ursula K. Le Guin and Karen Joy Fowler and is the author of Stories About Stories: Fantasy and the Remaking of Myth (2014) and Decoding Gender in Science Fiction (2002), among other books.
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This together with the linked short stories of Searoad and (most of) the Unlocking the air short story collection represents all of Le Guin's mainstream fiction. It sits comfortably next to her science fiction and fantasy work.
Overall a satisfying read and a worthy addition to this prestigious series.
The novel Malafrena makes up about half of the collection. It is set in the 19th century when Orsinia is part of the Austrian Empire. The plot focuses on a young man caught up in revolutionary politics, his relationship with his family and his romance with a wealthy baroness. Readers of Tolstoy will find Malafrena very familiar, but it is not just a carbon copy of Russian novels. Le Guin subverts the 19th century tale a bit with modern ideas such as strong women who take on traditional male roles. At times, the plot seems disjointed as some characters disappear and have little time to develop. Nevertheless, Malafrena is fantastic personal drama that fans of classic literature will enjoy.
The other half of the book is a collection of short stories. They flesh out the history of Orsinia from medieval times to the Cold War. The stories are personal dramas set during times of political upheaval, and I found them to be an enjoyable collection of historical fiction and a nice addendum to Malafrena.
This collection may not be the Le Guin novel I would start with, but it is certainly worth owning if you enjoy her writing.