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The Golden Mean

The Golden Mean

[a Novel of Aristotle and Alexander the Great]

Book - 2010
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A bold reimaging of one of history's most intriguing relationships: between legendary philosopher Aristotle and his most famous pupil, the young Alexander the Great.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
Edition: First U.S. edition
ISBN: 9780307593993
Branch Call Number: FIC LYON 2010
Characteristics: 287 pages ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

Like Alex & Aris, this novel reimagines the relationship between Aristotle and his pupil Alexander, before the teenager went on to become the famous conqueror.

From the critics

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Dec 01, 2020

This is my second read-through and this time I was struck by Lyon’s writing style – short blunt sentences that are abrupt, punchy, and capture the essence of the male world of 4th century Greece. Her diction is fresh, modern, and lifts the story to a level of humanity we can all relate to. Lyon is equally at ease with tender, sometimes amusing, scenes between Aristotle and his beloved wife, as she is with raunchy male sexuality that was an aspect of that era. Above all, Aristotle is the consummate teacher as he tutors young Alexander (the Great) in philosophical moderation, working against Alexander’s drive to be a warrior king. Historical fiction with an edge.

A couple of my favourite quotes:
“His fine brows wrinkled and darkened like walnut meats by the "knottiness" (italics mine) of his thoughts.”
“An older [woman] with a sullen face looks me in the eye like that’s her way of spitting.”

May, 2011:
A historical fiction about Aristotle … I thought it would be dry and academic. How wrong! Lyon’s language is both erudite and earthy, fully fleshing out those Greek times (including our modern f-word to substitute for the lost counterpart in Greek). At the heart of this story is the conflict between ideas – Aristotle’s ideal – and the action/war-conquering society of the time. Aristotle is hired for the intellectual training of young Alexander the Great, and he wants to teach him the golden mean … to find the right balance between the extremes of war and intellectual ideals. A very worthwhile book!

Nov 27, 2020

One of my absolute favourite novels. It transports the reader to Ancient Greece so I’m in! I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed the narration.

The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon is a great historical novel based on true events. It’s about Alexander III of Macedon (also known as Alexander the Great) who was a young and a powerful Greek emperor who ruled the largest Western empire of the ancient world. He was only in his early 20’s when he became a king, and died at the age of 32. In his teen years he was tutored by the legendary Greek philosopher Aristotle. This novel is re-imagination of what it was like for Aristotle to tutor this clever young man whose limitless ambition was also alarming. Consequently, Aristotle aimed to give Alexander the “Golden Mean” to become a prominent leader without losing control over his desire for power. (Submitted by Jamila)

Nov 18, 2015

I totally agree with the reader ‘s comments of April 22, 2015. The first third of the book was great! Then to the end it was slow and humdrum. There were some nice details, but to me it seemed like 2 different authors were writing. The first was interested in the subject matter and the second was just filling up the pages to get it over and done with. A real disappointment with such interesting characters this could have been a really good book.

Apr 22, 2015

this book started off with a bang, after all, the conjunction of Philip of Macedon, Aristotle and Alexander the Great holds great promise, but too pedestrian situations occur to finally hold rapt your attention, interest fizzles, the tale ends in a whimper, though the timeline uniting the three protagonists was made clear, and I liked the information about Ptolemy, Alexander's successor, originator of the Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty, and thus Cleopatra's earliest recorded ancestor

Aug 15, 2013

An interesting novel that looks at Alexander the Great through the first-hand account of his teacher Aristotle. It takes Aristotle out of the ethereal philosophical and intellectual realm on the first page, having him swear and complain about the soreness of riding a horse, while distracting himself with the thought of a woman servant’s ass; it returns to Aristotle’s home life, his ambitions and his fears about becoming entangled in court politics. As he’s not really an insider, his view of Alexander is limited, but he sees how a bright boy has to accommodate the political need for military leadership and social pressures. In the end, both philosopher and ruler have to look for a balance between what they want and what they can accomplish, or get away with, in the real world.

Jun 23, 2013

I find it amazing how an author can fictionalize the lives of Aristotle, King Philip, and Alexander, his son after reading histories of this time period and biographies of these men. I enjoyed reading this book, more to see what life could have been like in those times than to find out about the lives of Aristotle or his student, Alexander, who happen to be the vehicles for this discovery. The book is easy to read and, like a life, has no plot except to detail what happens in Aristotle's life during a certain time, play, leisure, family, households, food, friends, relatives, entertainment, problems, successes, failures, housing, pleasures, deaths, diseases, gods/religion/ beliefs, teachings/education, etc.

Jun 18, 2013

This book is not hard to read, not too deep or philosophical, but not very engaging either. It did not have much of a plot line or flow and I did not know where it was heading. Some aspects of life during Aristotle's years in Macedon were interesting but not enough for me to finish the book.

WVMLBookClubTitles Jun 17, 2013

Lyon recounts the history of Aristotle from the philosopher’s point of view, concentrating on the time he spends as the tutor of Alexander the Great, a gifted adolescent who displays shockingly violent impulses and a passion for warfare. The balance of extremes becomes a theme as Aristotle attempts to temper the boy while battling emotional extremes of his own. Lyon’s voice has been called earthy and frank; thus the grittiness of Classical Antiquity comes alive, and the reader inhabits
the mind of a great thinker afflicted with bilious swings of mood and energy. Some days Aristotle sleeps and weeps; others he produces “monuments of work that [are] pure luminous chryselephantine genius.” Lyon’s own work is one of notable achievement: nominated for all three of Canada’s major fiction awards, Lyon won the 2009 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.

Oct 23, 2012

A wonderful book! Really makes Aristotle and Alexander seem like real people.

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Mar 06, 2011

animal74 thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over


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