- Hodder & Stoughton General Division
- Publication Date:
- 07 June 2012
- Modern & Contemporary
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After thoroughly enjoying Little Bee, I was excited when I had the opportunity to review Chris Cleave's new novel, Gold. While my expectations were high, honestly, Cleave actually exceeded those expectations and delivered something incredibly heartfelt, emotional and delightful to read.Just in time for the 2012 London Olympics, Chris Cleave offers a new novel about a part of olympic-level cyclists who have been best friends for years. Through all their training, determination and focus, Kate and Zoe have stuck together and supported each other through national competitions and even the Olympics. Now, they are facing the most difficult trial of their lives: the 2012 Olympics amid the trials of age, responsibilities of family and the unexpected difficulties that life tends to throw in your way. While Kate is naturally talented at the sport, she is dealing with her daughter Sophie, who is battling possible leukemia remissions. And Zoe, always competitive, is so desperate to win the gold, even at the expense of her friendship with Kate, that it could cost her her sanity.Gold is an incredibly well-written and emotional novel that captures the drama of the Velodrome linked with the trials of family life and friendship. Even though I actually read an Advanced Reader's edition of Gold, Cleave's writing was already tight and crisp. Every sentence resonates with the reader and draws them deeper into the story. I especially enjoyed the sections where Sophie narrated, much of which centered around Star Wars reference which really appealed to the nerd in me.Speaking of Sophie, it was incredible to see how she got lost in the world of Star Wars as a way to cope with her leukemia and other family issues. It's a very normal human response, especially for a child, and Cleave builds an incredible character through her quirky narration that make readers fall in love with her. And Sophie isn't the only character here that is well-constructed. Kate is an honest and realistic woman that has to balance work and home life while still trying to follow her dreams. Zoe, on the other hand, does seem a little contrived at times -her somewhat insane and compulsive personality is primarily tied to trauma over her brother's death, and all of her issues are conveniently tied to this one incident. At times, this can come across as somewhat contrived and her personality seems a little over-the-top, but I didn't think it was outrageous enough to harm the novel overall.By the end of this book, I was on the edge of my seat and was almost in tears. The characters and their struggle became so real to me that I wanted to be part of every moment. Though this is not Little Bee, Gold is an excellent novel that delivers an incredibly emotional story with engaging characters.
I love how this book is organized, with flashbacks to the past and cute inserts about Star Wars and Sophie. This book would make a terrific movie, the characters feelings are brought out so well almost like poetry. I had so many emotions while reading this, and couldn't put it down! Really engaging story.
I discovered this book in my library's 'New' shelf, and I have to admit that I wasn't sold on either the cover or the blurb. However, seeing that the Olympics are underway, I decided to take a chance. I am so glad that I did!Cleave's Gold tells the story of two, British women who are both completing for gold medals in cycling for the 2012 Olympics. Kate, a sweet-tempered but driven young woman, was forced to miss the previous Olympics due to a family medical emergency, and she is desperate to make this last attempt at the gold. Her frenemy, Zoe, a hard-core, hard-bitten contender who lets nothing stand in her way, is also determined to win the gold at all costs. Although the two women have a shared history of victories, they are also locked in competition, not only for the gold medal, but also for the love of Jack, another Olympic cyclist.I was hooked on this story from the very first page. The characters are so well depicted, and the tension so compelling that I didn't want to put the book down. Cleave is a masterful story teller, and his descriptions are vivid without being boring. Had I been reading this book on my Kindle, I would have wanted to underline nearly every sentence. The story is deceptively simple, and it takes many unexpected turns. I worried that the outcome would either be too syrupy sweet or too dismal and dark, yet Cleave managed to give me an extremely satisfying conclusion that rang true.The one quibble I had, however, was that although Zoe did many terrible things to both Kate and Jack in her pursuit of the gold, they not only forgave her, they continued their friendships with her. Personally, I would have told Zoe to get lost after the first time she messed with me. Strangely, Zoe reminded me a great deal of Lisbeth Salander, the heroine from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books. (Although, I liked Salander a great deal more for some reason).In my opinion, what separates literature from fiction is literature's ability to make me see things in a new way. And this book definitely does that. Never before had I considered the amount of sacrifice it takes to become an Olympic athlete. After reading this book, however, I have a much stronger appreciation for those who are competing in the Olympics. I am definitely reading more of Cleave's books.
I read Gold in two sittings, ignoring everything else to get to the end of this fantastic book. Some books are meant to be savored, this one was meant to be read as fast as the cyclists it portrays.Zoe and Kate are described as best friends though this isn't exactly true. They have been competing in races since they were nineteen. The book starts at the Olympics in Athens, where Zoe is competing but Kate is not, she is back in London with her infant baby. We are then fast-forwarded eight years later, Kate and Zoe are on an outing with Kate's husband, Jack who is also a cyclist, and Sophie, their 8 year old daughter who has leukemia. Sophie is obsessed with Star Wars and keeping her parents from knowing how sick she feels so she can avoid seeing worry on their faces and because she wants her mom to make it to the London Olympics.We are then taken back to how Zoe, Kate, and Jack met and the complications in their lives. Kate is competitive but a good person but Zoe is so driven, she does horrible things to mess with Kate's head, wanting to win at all costs. But she always feels terrible because she really cares for Kate. Jack is a catalyst that Zoe has used in the past, but now Kate and Jack are happily married though drained between training and caring for Sophie and trying to stay positive for her.The novel moves back and forth in time, giving us more insight into what is a complex relationship the three of them share and the reasons for Zoe's self-destructiveness.I have never read anything by Chris Cleave before though I knew of his work. He created great characters and a complex back story while moving the story ahead at a fast pace. That isn't easy to do and he did it brilliantly. he even manages to create a a complex character, Tom, the coach of Zoe and Kate and while delving into his psyche, the story doesn't slow for a bit and comes together perfectly. I definitely recommend this novel and I am adding Cleave's other works to my future reads.
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