Gold by Chris Cleave. Publisher: Simon & Schuster (July 3, 2012). Literary fiction. Hardcover. 336 pages. ISBN: 978-1451672725.
“I know she’s more your type anyway.”
He smiled. “Really? What’s my type then?”
She shrugged. “Pretty happy. Pretty normal. Pretty pretty.”
“As opposed to . . .?”
Zoe managed a half smile. “I’m ugly on the inside. I’ll mess your head up.”
Chris Cleave crafts descriptive passages and his story-lines immediately engross the reader. I recently read Little Bee and found it quite compelling and eagerly anticipated Gold. Cleave tackles Olympic sprint cycling with vivid riveting descriptions and terrifying competitions. The details about athletes lives, their training and competitions as well as life after the glory remain the ultimate highlights of this novel for me. As in Little Bee, Cleave choose to focus on women and their relationship as well as a family secret. The story revolving around two women and their final attempt at an Olympic medal leans toward the melodramatic. Zoe is single and ruthless, scheming and uber-competitive. She’s emotional and high-strung. The trained athlete. The one who desires a win above all else. Kate is confident, gracious in defeat. She’s cerebral and kind. The gifted athlete. Both love the sport. Both take completely different approaches toward it.
It’s interesting that Zoe, seemingly more winning than Kate [she’s won multiple gold medals and has numerous endorsements] has sacrificed much per a society which believes a woman must have marriage and family to be complete. Kate gave up many of her athletic goals to care for her daughter Sophie who has leukemia. She missed several Olympic games due to Sophie’s illness. I found Zoe more fascinating than Kate. Zoe’s flawed and a risk taker on and off the track. Kate seems to be the girl-next-door and I’ve never been very fond of that prototype. When Zoe and Kate meet at age 19, they were trying out for the British Cycling team. Zoe viewed Kate as her only real threat. She noticed that Kate and a male cyclist, Jack, developed a bond. Zoe used this to impair Kate’s ability to race. Thus, begins this bizarre friendship between Zoe and Kate based on jealousy, competition and secrecy more than anything else. The bond isn’t developed in the course of the novel. How are they friends? Cleave never manages to make their friendship believable.
Despite an adrenalin-fueled start, Gold runs out of energy and creativity in its last turn. Although with cancer, jealousy, Olympic rivalry and bike racing? It’s a literary soap opera out just in time to psych you up for the 2012 Olympic games in London.
purchase at Amazon: Gold: A Novel