Author: Annabel Lyon

Published by Alfred A. Knopf

ISBN: 978-0-307-59399-3

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Told in the voice of Aristotle during the time when he became tutor to the Macedonian prince who would become Alexander the Great, The Golden Mean gives readers an intimate glimpse into the well-respected philosopher’s thoughts and experiences. This historical figure, considered to have one of the greatest minds in history, comes off as an ordinary, unsure human being, with flaws, doubts and a tendency towards depression.

Canadian literary author Annabel Lyon takes some dramatic license with the historical events, figures and circumstances; however, she succeeds in capturing the era and going deeper into the lives of these people who have shaped the history of the modern world. Rather than concentrating on the philosophical writings of Aristotle or the epic battles of Alexander the Great, this novel explores their everyday lives, taking us into Aristotle’s household, where we get to meet his wife, his children, and his servants. We are also treated to flashbacks in which the great thinker remembers his childhood when he accompanied his physician father to the homes of his patients.

The Golden Mean is at times erotic, violent and disturbing, in a refreshing way that brings the characters to life rather than depicting them weakly through the historical lens of all they accomplished. The language is curt and somewhat analytical, not tending towards poetic or beautifully descriptive passages. This seems appropriate as the narrator is a man who sometimes thinks without seeing and observes without immersing himself in his subjects. He is apart from the world rather than deeply ensconced in it. As a scientist and analyst, he is somewhat detached from that which he studies. His emotions, while often being close to the surface, are bewildering and troubling to him. He views them as an illness, a bothersome aspect of his makeup that he wishes to avoid and correct. While enlightened in many aspects of the world, he is rather naive in others. Since Lyon chose to write the novel from Aristotle’s viewpoint, all of the other characters are depicted through him and it is interesting to speculate on the accuracy of his judgements. There are times when Lyon hints that Aristotle’s views are arbitrary and mistaken, cleverly written in such a way that the character is not aware of them, although astute readers will make their own conclusions.

The title refers to Aristotle’s philosophy that goodness comes from a general point between two extremes, and much of the book falls into this category. Lyon suggests that Aristotle attempted to live his life in this manner and also expected it of those around him. Extreme behaviour is considered unpleasant and unnecessary, and yet it is in the extremes that true emotions and depths of feeling are experienced. By attempting to avoid the extremes, they become all the more obvious and inevitable. An intelligent and carefully written novel, I would recommend The Golden Mean and look forward to future works by Annabel Lyon.

Click Here To Purchase The Golden Mean