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 prowess as a soldier.
Initially Aristotle hopes for a short stay in what he considers the brutal backwater of his childhood. But, as a man of relentless curiosity and reason, Aristotle warms to the challenge of instructing his young charges, particularly Alexander, in whom he recognizes a kindred spirit, an engaged, questioning mind coupled with a unique sense of position and destiny.
Aristotle struggles to match his ideas against the warrior culture that is Alexander’s birthright. He feels that teaching this startling, charming, sometimes horrifying boy is a desperate necessity. And that what the boy – thrown before his time onto his father’s battlefields – needs most is to learn the golden mean, that elusive balance between extremes that Aristotle hopes will mitigate the boy’s will to conquer.
Aristotle struggles to inspire balance in Alexander, and he finds he must also play a cat-and-mouse game of power and influence with Philip in order to manage his own ambitions.
As Alexander’s position as Philip’s heir strengthens and his victories on the battlefield mount, Aristotle’s attempts to instruct him are honoured, but increasingly unheeded. And despite several troubling incidents on the field of battle, Alexander remains steadfast in his desire to further the reach of his empire to all known and unknown corners of the world, rendering the intellectual pursuits Aristotle offers increasingly irrelevant.
Exploring this fabled time and place, Annabel Lyon tells her story in the earthy, frank, and perceptive voice of Aristotle himself. With sensual and muscular prose, she explores how Aristotle’s genius touched the boy who would conquer the known world. And she reveals how we still live with the ghosts of both men.
Annabel Lyon’s first book, the short-story collection Oxygen, was nominated for the Danuta Gleed and ReLit awards. Her second collection, The Best Thing for You, was nominated for the Ethel Wilson Prize for Fiction. She lives in New Westminster, B.C., with her husband and two children.
“The style as a whole posesses an often eerie earthiness... This is a novel that stands firmly on its own feet.”
—Financial Times Review
“I think this quietly ambitious and beautifully achieved novel is one of the most convincing historical novels I have ever read.” —Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall
“Annabel Lyon’s Aristotle is the most fully realized historical character in contemporary fiction. The Golden Mean engenders in the reader the same helpless sensitivity to the ferocious beauty of the world that is Aristotle’s disease. In this alarmingly confident and transporting debut novel, Lyon offers us that rarest of treats: a book about philosophy, about the power of ideas, that chortles and sings like an earthy romance.”
—2009 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Jury Marina Endicott, Miriam Toews, R. M. Vaughan
“I absolutely loved The Golden Mean. Annabel Lyon brings the philosophers and warriors, artists and whores, princes and slaves of ancient Macedonia alive, with warmth, wit, and poignancy. Impeccably researched and brilliantly told, this novel is utterly convincing.”
— Marie Phillips, author of Gods Behaving Badly
“The Golden Mean, so full of intellect, is a pleasure to read. If excellence is our standard, then this novel will certainly flourish.”
— David Bergen, Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author of The Time in Between and The Retreat
“An exhilarating book, both brilliant and profound. Annabel Lyon’s spare, fluid, utterly convincing prose pulls us headlong into Aristotle’s original mind. Only Lyon’s great-hearted intelligence could have imagined and achieved the brave ambition of this book. Vital, ferocious, and true, The Golden Mean is an oracular vision of the past made present.”
— Marina Endicott, author of Good to a Fault
“In Lyon’s clever hands, more than two thousand years of difference are made to disappear and Aristotle feels as real and accessible as the man next door. With this powerful, readable act of the imagination, Annabel Lyon proves that she can go anywhere it pleases her to go.”
— Fred Stenson, author of The Great Karoo
"Lyon [has] established herself as this generation's answer to Alice Munro. A master of wordplay and storytelling, Lyon takes readers deep into the hearts and secret desires of her characters."
— The Vancouver Sun
"A taut, polished novel that will hold your attention from start to finish. It is at times funny, thought-provoking, sensual and suspenseful."
— The Vancouver Sun
"This is a wise and thoughtful book."
— The Giller Prize jury citation