Monday, September 6, 2010

Review: The Golden Mean

The Golden Mean by Anabel Lyon

(For review from Pantheon)


A Startlingly original first novel by "this generations answer to Alice Monroe" (The Vancouver Sun) - a bold re-imagining of one of history's most intriguing relationships: between legendary philosopher Aristotle and his most famous pupil, the young Alexander the Great.

342 B.C.: Aristotle is reluctant to set aside his own ambitions in order to tutor Alexander, the rebellious son of his boyhood friend, Phillip of Macedon. But the philosopher soon comes to realize that teaching this charming, surprising, sometimes horrifying teenager - heir to the Macedonian throne, forced onto the battlefield before his time - is a necessity amid the ever more sinister intrigues of Philip's court.

Told in the brilliantly rendered voice of Aristotle - keenly intelligent, often darkly funny - The Golden Mean brings ancient Greece to vivid life via the story of this remarkable friendship between two towering figures, innovator and conqueror, whose views of the world still resonate today.


The Golden Mean is a book that will not only entertain but, educate the reader. It is impeccably researched and is historical fiction in it's truest form. Lyon has taken one of the greatest philosopher's of 4th century Greece and made him her storyteller. She depicts Aristotle as both wise and ambitious, while portraying Alexander as somewhat horrifying yet very vulnerable. The relationship between teacher and student is often blurred as Aristotle becomes very fond on Alexander and their friendship becomes the stuff of legends.

There were many things that I liked about this book. Lyon makes ancient Greece accessible to the reader. Most people have heard of Aristotle, but probably couldn't tell you very much about him, just what little they may have heard mentioned in a college philosophy class or a quote they may have seen along the way. Lyon brings Aristotle to life, making him human, more than just a wise man who lived a long time ago. She is able to delve into his mind and give the reader an idea of what he stood for and why it was so important to him that Alexander learn what he needed in order to lead.

Lyon shows us Alexander before he became "great" when he was a teenager who was still pliable and ready and willing to learn from someone he considered, "great". She shows us the kinds of things that Alexander was capable of, she shows his arrogance and his vulnerability. Her character development is phenomenal. I also liked the way the story was told in almost a lyrical pattern. It is very poetical and reads with a smoothness, that is lacking in many debut efforts. I am generally critical where the line between fiction and non-fiction begins to blur, but I can't find anything other than praise for this author and her first work.

The Golden Mean is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I am giving this one a resounding 5 out of 5 apples. If you like historical fiction this one you shouldn't pass up.

Here is some additional information about Anabel Lyon.

Anabel Lyon's story collection, Oxygen and book of novellas, The Best Thing for You, were published in Canada to wide acclaim. The Golden Mean, her first novel, is a Canadian best seller and is being published in six languages. It won the Rodgers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller prize, the Governor General's Award for Fiction, and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. Lyon lives in British Columbia with her husband and two children.


Mystica said...

Sounds different and unusual.