Summary and book reviews of The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

The Golden Mean

By Annabel Lyon

The Golden Mean
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2010,
    304 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2011,
    304 pages.

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Book Summary

A startlingly original first novel by “this generation's answer to Alice Munro” (The Vancouver Sun)—a bold reimagining of one of history's most intriguing relationships: between legendary philosopher Aristotle and his most famous pupil, the young Alexander the Great.

342 BC: Aristotle is reluctant to set aside his own ambitions in order to tutor Alexander, the rebellious son of his boyhood friend Philip 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.

One

The rain falls in black cords, lashing my animals, my men, and my wife, Pythias, who last night lay with her legs spread while I took notes on the mouth of her sex, who weeps silent tears of exhaustion now, on this tenth day of our journey. On the ship she seemed comfortable enough, but this last overland stage is beyond all her experience and it shows. Her mare stumbles; she's let the reins go loose again, allowing the animal to sleepwalk. She rides awkwardly, weighed down by her sodden finery. Earlier I suggested she remain on one of the carts but she resisted, such a rare occurrence that I smiled, and she, embarrassed, looked away. Callisthenes, my nephew, offered to walk the last distance, and with some difficulty we helped her onto his big bay. She clutched at the reins the first time the animal shifted beneath her.

"Are you steady?" I asked, as around us the caravan began to move.

"Of course."

Touching. Men are good with horses where I come from, where we're ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What do you believe is the significance of Pythias' note to Aristotle their first night in Pella, "warm, dry" (p. 12)? What does it reveal about Pythias' nature and her relationship with Aristotle?


  2. At their first meeting, Alexander accuses Aristotle of using Arrhidaeus as another "laurel leaf," as proof that Aristotle is a great teacher. Is there truth in Alexander's words? What do you believe are the motives behind Aristotle's interest in Alexander's brother?


  3. How do Aristotle's relationships with the two brothers and their father, Philip, influence one another? How do they rank in Aristotle's affections?


  4. Although they enjoy a relationship of love and respect, Alexander and Aristotle maintain their roles of ruler and subject....
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Readers of historical fiction will enjoy The Golden Mean, drawn in by the prospect of learning more about the early lives of Aristotle and Alexander. Even readers not interested in classical history, though, would find the richly complex characters and situations engaging, as the story could almost take place in the present. All necessary background information is given in the novel, so readers do not need any prior knowledge. The novel drops hints about the greatness these two historical figures will each achieve, but Lyon captures them before that moment, while they're still forming, and while their successes are far from assured.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
The Globe & Mail

..The Golden Mean is a crisply written, painstakingly researched book, and Lyon ably inhabits 'the greatest mind of all time' – hardly a mean feat. This, then, is a virtuous work, though fibrous, fat-free and rarely what you'd call fun. But that is probably exactly as Aristotle would have wanted it.

Publishers Weekly

Lyon richly imagines Aristotle's stint as Macedon's royal academician, who gave Alexander the intellectual tools to not only rule but to civilize.

The Gazette (Montreal)

Historical fiction at its best ... Lyon authoritatively evokes a fabled time and place in the urbane voice of the man judged the smartest of his age.

Quill & Quire (Canada)

Lyon's singular gifts for description, character development, and plotting are on full display here, informing her unique and creative story. The novel is deep and rich in thought and accomplishment, yet it reads with the calming ease and influence of a cool summer breeze.

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The Legacy of Alexander the Great

Alexander III of Macedon (356–323 BC), popularly known as Alexander the Great, was one of history's most successful military commanders.  He is reputed to have never lost a battle, and his tactics are still studied in military academies.  He successfully challenged the Persian Empire, the largest, most powerful kingdom of the time, and conquered its vast territory after a series of battles and the death of the emperor, Darius III.  By the time he died at the age of 32, Alexander had seized an immense amount of land stretching from Greece and the Balkans to parts of India and Afghanistan, as well as Egypt (map).

Alexander's most enduring legacy, however, lies in spreading Greek culture and civilization to the ...

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