Alexander the Great is a man of legend, and so is the man who trained him—the famous philosopher and scientist Aristotle.
In her novel The Golden Mean, Annabel Lyon brings these ancient heroes back to life with the story of Aristotle’s beginnings at the Macedonian court and his adventures in teaching the impetuous young prince Alexander.
From the beginning, Alexander is short-tempered and reactive, and Aristotle has his hands full trying to teach the young man that there is more to life than war and conquest. Meanwhile, the philosopher has to vie for Alexander’s attention with the prince’s mother, other tutors, and Aristotle’s own wife—the young and beautiful Pythias.
The book shifts between this time period and Aristotle’s past as a Macedonian youth. The contrast between cautious, scholarly Aristotle and brash, adventurous Alexander is clear from their first meeting. Lyon’s imaginative take on their friendship shows how their budding relationship took several sharp turns as Aristotle had to teach Alexander how to be a true prince.
Their strange, nuanced relationship is what drives the book. Aristotle dwells upon thoughts of the future hero often, but their interactions are humorous and sometimes bittersweet as the young prince struggles to win his father’s approval.
The book does contain some sexually explicit scenes, but they can be easily skipped. Even without these sections, the novel is unique in its take on Aristotle and definitely worth a read. History lovers will enjoy the book, as will anyone who has ever tried to teach a child.
The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon is available from Vintage Books at a list price of $15.95.