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The Golden Mean

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  3,001 ratings  ·  370 reviews
On the orders of his boyhood friend, now King Philip of Macedon, Aristotle postpones his dreams of succeeding Plato as leader of the Academy in Athens and reluctantly arrives in the Macedonian capital of Pella to tutor the king’s adolescent sons. An early illness has left one son with the intellect of a child; the other is destined for greatness but struggles between a kee ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 11th 2009 by Random House Canada (first published 2009)
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Average rating 3.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,001 ratings  ·  370 reviews

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Jan 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I have read entirely too many ponderous and self-aware books lately, books written to please the author first and the reader second, books whose construction is as much the point of writing the book as its contents. I only realised that when I read "Golden Mean", because it is not such a book. It's like the first time you have a really good steak and realise that all the others, those artistic meat arrangements, were too focused on visual taste and not enough on gustatory taste. "Golden Mean" wa ...more
Kara Babcock
Let me summarize this book for you.

Aristotle: Join me, Alexander. Feel the power of the Dark Side.

Alexander: Never!

Aristotle: Alexander, I AM YOUR FATHER.

Alexander: No!

Aristotle: Look within your heart, Alexander, which is actually a heart, and is not merely the shadow of an ideal heart, because how the hell did Plato think that would work anyway? You know it to be true.

Alexander: Noooooooo!

Aristotle: *chops off Alexander's hand with a light-sabre*

—wait, no, sorry, that’s Star Wars. Let’s try th
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully written book but don't let it fool you into thinking its lyricism lacks substance. This is a history lecture masked as fiction, each word backed by research and hard work. The mask hiding it all, convincing us we're reading tales of long death myths, is made of details that grab our senses, intoxicating us. We hear the cries of a man suspected of possession as his head is open to let the demons bleed out. And we smell the horrifying destiny of a man jailed for writing of tr ...more
Richard Derus
Sep 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Rating: 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: On the orders of his boyhood friend, now King Philip of Macedon, Aristotle postpones his dreams of succeeding Plato as leader of the Academy in Athens and reluctantly arrives in the Macedonian capital of Pella to tutor the king’s adolescent sons. An early illness has left one son with the intellect of a child; the other is destined for greatness but struggles between a keen mind that craves instruction and the pressures of a society that demands his prowe
Lorina Stephens
Dec 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
While Annabel Lyon’s much-acclaimed novel The Golden Mean, has been received well by critics, I’m afraid it fell short for this reader.

The novel deals with Aristotle’s life during his tutelage of Alexander, who would become The Great. Lyon attempts to paint a picture of Aristotle’s own struggle to find balance between depression and joy, passion and reason, and in doing so employs a considerable wealth of research into the historical characters.

However, research into the historical milieu is lac
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon is the story of the nearly seven years Aristotle spent as the tutor of Alexander, the son and heir of King Philip of Macedon. The narrative is told in Aristotle's voice, opening with his arrival in Pella, the capital of Macedon. He is accompanied by his wife, Pythias, and his nephew, Callisthenes.

Aristotle's initial task is to work with Philip's mentally challenged son, Arrhidaeus. Although he treats Arrhidaeus with compassion and helps him improve both his physic
Nov 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canlit, x2016-read, auth-f
2.5 stars.

I bought this book many years ago, then stuck it on a shelf and forgot it. Every now and again, I would look at it on the shelf, then choose something else to read. Jo Walton got me to pick this book up and finally read it. No, I don't know Jo Walton, but I finished reading her Thessaly series, and those books reminded me I had this.

So, preamble out of the way, what did I think of this?....The blurbs on the cover made me think I was holding the work of THE Canadian novelist, comparing
Lilian Nattel
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon is terrific. I'll start with that and recommend that you go out and buy it.

This is a novel about Aristotle before he became Aristotle. He isn't a young man when the book begins. He is 37 years old and is inspecting his wife's vulva and vagina out of intellectual curiosity. His curiosity is great and he covets knowledge of all things.

The story follows his experiences for the next 7 years or so, while he is the tutor of Alexander the Great before he became the Gre
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
I just finished reading The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon, an historical novel about Aristotle torturing a young Alexander the Great. My overall impression was simply that it was a trite retelling of the same story. The dialogue at least is natural and believable, as much as anyone can suppose. It is strangely vulgar for no apparent effect. The characters curse awkwardly much like I would imagine the author to do: just to show that it can be done. In fact I would argue that among the characters in ...more
May 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A chronicle of Aristotle's seven years as Alexander of Macedonis's tutor. The wild and warlike world of Macedon was not one Aristotle appreciated, even though he grew up there. He was more at home with the philosophers and debaters in Athens, although even there he kept his distance. When the opportunity presented, he couldn't pass up the chance to teach the young Alexander and ended up in the court at Macedonia.

What struck me the most about the story is how similar Aristotle and Alexander were.
Aug 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Well, after trying to decide whether or not I wanted to read this book, I finally took the plunge after a bookstore owner highly recommended it. I had feared that the book - which tells of the relationship between Aristotle and Alexander (soon to be the Great) from Aristotle's point of view - might be dry and academic. That certainly was not the case. In very contemporary, muscular (there really isn't another word for it) prose, Annabel Lyon gives us a fascinating fictionalization of Alexander's ...more
Jul 22, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf, historical

ah yes my favourite brand of sexism: "historically accurate" sexism
bonus points if its written by a woman too

listen, the sexism is kind of the thing that made me dislike this book most but because it is "so historically accurate" and so absolutely necessary, here´s a few other things that bothered me:

-weirdly modern speech and phrases that ruin the mood
-Guys Being Dudes no one can have a conversation without swearing bc they are all such manly men who talk like real guys
-litterally nothing
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
In a short sentence, this is the story of Aristotle's experience tutoring a young Alexander the Great of Macedon. But it is, of course, much more than that. It begins with Aristotle, his wife Pythias, the young son of his cousin, Callisthenes, and all their slaves and household possessions, travelling to Pella, the capital of Macedon, to deliver a message from Hermias, ruler of a minor satrap where they've been living. As an adolescent, Aristotle lived with his family in Pella (his father was ap ...more
Jun 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
"I accept that the greatest happiness comes to those capable of the highest things ... That's where you and I walk away from the rest of the world. You and I can appreciate the glory of things. We walk to the very edge of things as everyone else knows and understands and experiences them, and then we walk the next step. We go places no one has ever been. That's who we are. That's who you've taught me to be." – Alexander, to Aristotle (pg. 275)

The Golden Mean is a graceful re-imagining of one of
Mar 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club-books
This novel sounded exciting to me at first, because I was sure a story about such prominent and powerful historical figures would be interesting. I felt the book was less focused on history and characters, and more on some of the philosophies Aristotle promoted. The novel focuses greatly on family relationships, that of Aristotle and his own father, of Alexander and his father Philip or his mother Olympias. The relationship of tutor to student was explored, but not as much as I felt was needed. ...more
Sep 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Annabel Lyon's The Golden Mean is an audacious novel about Aristotle's tutoring of the hot-blooded young warrior Alexander the Great in the years before he becomes king of Macedon at age twenty. Aristotle's quirky, scientific view of life unfolds in language that is startlingly contemporary, both in the sense of modern and of rooted in 4th century BC. Lyon's prose jumps with life, takes risks, defies gravity. We know we are in for a remarkable read when, early in the novel, we eavesdrop on Arist ...more
Aug 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really enjoy reading historical fiction. It is hard not to learn something new from a certain period in history, and this novel was no different.

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher is the narrator of this story. It is from his perspective that we learn about his time, about 7 years, as the tutor of Alexander (soon to be The Great) and son of King Philip of Macedon.

Aristotle is hoping to succeed the great Plato as leader of the Academy in Athens when King Philip asks (commands) him to tutor his er
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Pleasantly surprised by this one! It's been sitting on my shelf for years, so I'm glad I finally picked it up. I agree with other reviewers that the dialogue felt a bit too modern and anachronistic at times, but at the same time the occasional crudeness kinda actually fit.
Jan 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: historical fiction readers

This was just great. A novel about Aristotle during his years as tutor of a teenaged Alexander the Great. Annabel Lyon is yet another wonderful Canadian author.

Finishing The Life of Greece by Will Durant just two weeks prior was the best preparation for a good deep reading experience. After all, these two characters loomed large in Greek history and had far reaching effects throughout the ancient Greek world.

Durant gave his signature balanced account of political, philosophical and social life i
Fascinating interpretation of Alexander the Great; this time from the viewpoint of the philosopher, Aristotle, his teacher, who narrates. This gave a different slant to their story, and I enjoyed hearing Aristotle's voice. The author's portrayals of both characters was unusual: Alexander the Great was presented as very intense, curious but fixated on a few range of interests, maybe not selfish exactly, but perhaps suffering from Asperger's and most certainly emotionally damaged by his overbearin ...more
Luís Castilho
Nov 02, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Annabel Lyon's "The Golden Mean" is an historic novel set in Macedon 342 BC about Aristotle's childhood spent helping his father in his very rudimentary medical practice and, later, as Plato's disciple. Aristotle's childhood story is interconnected with the account of his rise to fame as the tutor of the young macedonian prince Alexander (later known as Alexander the great). What could be a very interesting and schooling historic novel is, sadly, told in a very americanized fashion, filling the ...more
Canadian author Annabel Lyon's historical novel 'The Golden Mean' creates a deeply imagined image of Aristotle's life in the Macedonian capital of Pella, where he tutored the young Alexander. This is an intimate portrait of Aristotle as a kind man with the judgement to survive brutal court politics. Lyon's writing rings true to the times. In reading, I smell l the dust of ancient Macedon, the stink of the rot in its ancient markets & sewers, am blinded by the glare of its sun, my modern eyes sho ...more
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Heidegger famously summed up his life: "Aristotle was born, spent his life philosophizing, and died." Annabel Lyon fills in a few of the gaps left by Heidegger, Plutarch, and a few others who were equally terse.

Lyon's technique resembles one of those flip books -- intimate scenes of family life followed by tutorial sessions with his infamous student, Alexander, the occasional dramatic interlude, a battle scene which Aristotle certainly never experienced first hand. The result is an expressive p
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting book with an interesting style of dialogue. I enjoyed the characters but found I couldn't pronounce their names in my head. I found Aristotle's life story more interesting than Alexander.
Hannah Wilson
View on my blog

Rating: 4/5 ★ | 80/100 | A-

Well, this is an entirely new exercise in reviewing for me. Here’s why:
I studied Classics at University for 5 years and have been obsessed, specifically, with Alexander the Great for 8 and a half years. You might think this puts me in the best position to review this book, instead it probably makes it harder. In my head I have stored the historicals facts (or as close as we can get to them, at least) of Alexander’s life, the written portraits of him craf
May 01, 2010 rated it it was ok
This book is my exposure to historical fiction. I read Jack Whyte ‘The Arthurian Legend’ as a teenager, but its historical accuracy or inaccuracy is fuzzy, as is the general arc of the narrative beyond the first novel. What makes for good historical fiction? I read in the Globe and Mail that it is a genre that garners more accolades than science fiction. Evidence: Whereas Atwood’s Alias Grace won the Booker, Oryx and Crake did not. Pithily, history provides the frame, or the form, and then it is ...more
Courtney Johnston
'The Golden Mean' is an intimate book, as salty and as civet-scented as the men who people it. In it, Annabel Lyons reimagines the relationship between the philosopher Aristotle and his teenage pupil, the Macedonian prince Alexander, casting outwards and backwards to Aristotle's domestic life with his wife, children and later his servant-lover, his childhood, his apprenticeship of sorts to his physician father, his early years at Plato's Academy, his tenuous friendship with Philip the King. Ther ...more
Nov 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Try as I might, my words cannot do justice to this fantastic novel. Set in ancient Greece, The Golden Mean gives a fictional-historical account of the life of the philosopher Aristotle and his tutelage of the young Prince Alexander of Macedon (later, Alexander the Great). Out of all of the historical novels I have read, The Golden Mean is the best proof that historical novels can be just as engaging, alive and colourful as a novel with fictional characters and settings. Here, ancient Greece is n ...more
Oct 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my opinion the most famous teacher-student relationships are Aristotle and Alexander the Great and Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller. They had exceptional starting material but you have to give Ari and Annie a chunk of credit for helping to get two such powerful conquerors into the world. A+ for them.

The new novel The Golden Mean written by Annabel Lyon recreates the teacher student relationship of Aristotle and Alexander. The what happens of it all is already known. In 342 BC Aristotle reluct
Miz Moffatt
Nov 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
The Golden Mean offers a sensual, frank depiction of the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, and his complex connections with the boy who would become Alexander the Great. As the novel opens, King Philip presses Aristotle into service as a teacher of the young princes of Macedon, forcing Aristotle to postpone his dreams of succeeding Plato as the leader of the Academy in Athens. One son, Arridaeus, possesses the intellect of a child in the aftermath of a serious illness; the other son, Alexand ...more
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Annabel Lyon was born in 1971. Her first book of fiction, the short story collection Oxygen (Porcupine's Quill, 2000), was published to wide acclaim, and was nominated for the Danuta Gleed and ReLit awards.

Her short fiction has appeared in numerous publications, including Toronto Life, The Journey Prize Anthology, and Write Turns: New Directions in Canadian Fiction. Lyon is also a frequent contri

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