Ever since Annabel Lyon's The Golden Mean was published, a second book was rumoured. The Sweet Girl turns to Pythias, Aristotle's daughter, to tell the story of his final years, death, and her own life as a young adult. Lyon's new book is, in my view, one of those rare occasions where the sequel improves on an already great original. As well-written and fascinating as The Golden Mean is, it sometimes loses its pace. On the other hand, The Sweet Girl maintains a perfect tempo as it describes a young girl trying to survive in an ancient patriarchal society after her famous father's death. Although the book could be a coming-of-age story simply set in the past, it also comments on individual choice and social expectation while avoiding the temptation to judge history by modern standards. Lyon has written a world that feels like ancient Greece without turning Pythias into a victim. Pythias controls her own destiny through some surprising career choices – including abortionist and courtesan – without ever suggesting that circumstances force her into these roles. The Sweet Girl is great historical fiction where the story remains within the realm of historical possibility, but the characters could step easily into the modern world.
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