Trevor reviews The Golden Mean

lyonShadow Giller juror Trevor Berrett has reviewed The Golden Mean and pronounced it his favorite of the four shortlisted novels that he has read so far. Turns out he is a classics fan and loved the way Annabel Lyon spoke to that experience. Here are a couple of paragraphs from his review that provide a sample:

This book picks up in about 343 B.C., when Aristotle is travelling to Pella, the capital of Macedon, with his very young wife Pythias. They have just left Atarneus, where Aristotle had founded his first philosophical school under the patronage of Hermias (Pythias’s father, probably). Lyon does an exceptional job subtly introducing some of the region’s impending doom. Aristotle is couriering a treaty from Hermias to Philip of Macedon, who is just beginning his campaign to take over the known world. Atarneus lies frighteningly close to Persia, so Hermias was hoping to get Philip’s protection in return for Hermias’s loyalty.

When the narrative begins, Aristotle has already stopped by Stageira, his birthplace (in Macedonia), to witness for himself the destruction brought about when Philip destroyed the town. We get a great sense of the time when we meet Philip and Aristotle humbly submits himself to him. In The Golden Mean Philip and Aristotle were friends in youth — at least as close to friends as one can become with the future king. This is possible since Aristotle’s father was Philip’s father’s chief physician. Consequently, they have an interesting relationship in The Golden Mean now that both have grown up, Aristotle in Athens building his mind, Philip in Macedon building for war.

While that establishes the context of the story, Lyon devotes most of her attention to Aristotle’s tutoring of Alexander and explores what happens behind the main events of the time. You can find my my review of The Golden Mean here. Lyon’s novel has now been shortlisted for all three major Canadian fiction prizes — that is a good indication that this is a very well-written book.

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6 Responses to “Trevor reviews The Golden Mean”

  1. Trevor Says:

    I would like to say, though, that while it was my favorite so far, I don’t necessarily think that it should win the prize. I recognize its limitations. But I wouldn’t be displeased either. I’m definitely anxious to read The Bishop’s Man so we can discuss the merits of each book and determine the Shadow Giller’s winner!

  2. KevinfromCanada Says:

    The Shadow Jury is definitely heading into the home stretch. For those visitors who have been following our thoughts, my goal is to have our deliberations completed and the Shadow Giller posted on Friday, Nov. 6.

  3. Kerry Says:

    I definitely enjoy the Shadow Jury’s deliberations. Your (plural) praise has me reconsidering this one, though I am still displeased that none of my vicarious favorites from the longlist made it to the shortlist. I will read The Incident Report notwithstanding. I enjoyed your (Kevin) review and you definitely made the book sound enjoyable.

  4. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Without in any way speaking for my fellow jurors, it is an interesting list this year Kerry in that there are a lot of books that appeal to specific tastes, but have other weaknesses. I very much liked The Incident Report, but recognize that the very oddness that appeals to me would be a barrier to others. I could find similar arguments for my others favorites, Valmiki’s Daughter and The Factory Voice. And as Trevor notes he likes The Golden Mean best so far because of the way that it overlaps with his interest. For both the Shadow Jury and the Real Jury, I don’t think there is a book that stands out as the “single” best.

  5. Maggie Says:

    Kudos to Trevor for appreciating Lyon’s work. The Rogers Writer’s Trust just chose this fine and unusual book as this years winner!

  6. KevinfromCanada Says:

    I am very happy for Annabel Lyon. That she made three shortlists is wonderful, but to lose all three would be an unnecessary pain. This is the right award for her to win and she certainly deserves it.

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