Shadow 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.