Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Review: The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Random House, 2010

Postponing his dream of succeeding Plato as the leader of the Athenium Academy, Aristotle obeys Philip of Macedon's order to tutor his son, Alexander. Despite his reluctance, the celebrated sophist is drawn to the boy's intellectual precocity, but Aristotle's influence is fiercely tested by the ingrained warrior culture of Alexander's inheritance. He hopes that the philosophy of the Golden Mean - the elusive balance between extremes - can temper the boy's will to conquer, a will that threatens to lead Alexander to destruction - or greatness.

I first came across The Golden Mean when it was on the shortlist for the ALA Historical Fiction Award and afterwards discovered that was only one of the many awards it had been nominated for. So my expectations were high that this would be a book I'd love .......

You can't win 'em all...............very mixed feelings keep me swinging like a pendulum and unable to find that 'golden mean'.

What I Liked...................the writing was sparse which took me a while to get used to but it still manages to achieve some very nice descriptive prose and it was easy to read. The subject matter was something I was naturally interested in and I enjoyed the relationship between Aristotle and Alexander and the humour contained in much of the dialogue.

What I didn't took me four days to read 276 pages which is not exactly an indication of riveting reading. The story wanders along , confusing at times with the flashbacks, at a very even pace offering no highs or lows to keep the reader entertained. Because it's so short there is no real depth or substance to the historical background and no time for the characters to develop fully.

What I really didn't like!............there was too many scenes of men discussing their sexual preference for pretty young boys and what they would like to do to them if they took them home.
There is a lot of very foul language.
I have no problem at all with erotica or swearing provided it fits the context of the story or the personality of a character. In this case I thought it was totally unnecessary, it felt far too modern and actually had a startling effect when it suddenly appeared.

So I have to disagree with those who hand out prizes and say that overall I was disappointed.

Historical Fiction Challenge


  1. I've heard wonderful things about this one but I appreciate your honest thoughts. This one had me kind of curious but I think I won't rush to get it.

  2. I think I will avoid this book. Thanks for your honest thoughts!

  3. Hmm, I'll leave it on the TBR list but not rush it to the top. I like sparse writing, but I also like character development. Thanks for the review.

  4. I hope I'm not putting everyone off! It has had many reviews that think it's brilliant so I'm probably in the minority.