Saturday, August 14, 2010
"The Golden Mean" by Annabel Lyon
King Philip of Macedon invites his friend Aristotle to tutor his two adolescent sons. Aristotle arrives only reluctantly in the Macedonian capital for he wanted to become the leader of the Academy in Athens instead. One of Philip’s sons, Arrhidaeus is mentally disabled while Alexander is a keen and kindred spirit, raised to be a warrior and king.
To his surprise, Aristotle enjoys the challenge of teaching the two boys. He works to improve Arrhidaeus life, but his main goal is to teach Alexander about balancing the power of muscle and the power of mind. Alexander should learn to use the golden mean, the balance between the extremes. However, not everybody agrees to Aristotle’s ideas of how a king should rule his country. The king is at war, and his son, the heir apparent, must prove himself worthy on the battle field. Meanwhile Aristotle fights his own war – the battle for Alexander’s mind and for his own career, because he has not forgotten his desire to become one of the greatest philosophers of all time.
“The Golden Mean” boldly explores the relationship and influence of Aristotle, a philosopher, on Alexander, a warring king. Annabel Lyons chooses first person and present tense for her prose, which may not be every reader's choice. She uses an earthy, modern voice, and she does not shy away from profanity and sensuality. The Greeks were known not only for their accomplishments in philosophy and maths but also for their down-to-earth approach on human life. The question remains how close Annabel Lyon can get into Aristotle’s mind; however, this question set aside, “The Golden Mean” provides an unique glimpse into a time in which great gods were fallible, great minds invented democracy, and great kings stretched their realm to the unknown and beyond.