>> Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Gold by Chris Cleave
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 2012
Source: provided by the publisher through NetGalley
The Short Version:
Rival cyclists compete for a spot on the 2012 Olympic team but they’re both fighting for much more than a medal.
Why I Read It:
I liked Chris Cleave’s Little Bee and even though I knew ahead of time that this one was very different, I wanted to read it.
From the publisher:
Kate and Zoe met at nineteen when they both made the cut for the national training program in track cycling—a sport that demands intense focus, blinding exertion, and unwavering commitment. They are built to exploit the barest physical and psychological edge over equally skilled rivals, all of whom are fighting for the last one tenth of a second that separates triumph from despair.
Now at thirty-two, the women are facing their last and biggest race: the 2012 Olympics. Each wants desperately to win gold, and each has more than a medal to lose.
The book opens at the 2004 Athens Olympics with Zoe preparing for her race. Kate is not competing and early on you learn that Kate is not there because of a choice she’s made. Kate’s boyfriend is also competing in Athens. The story then moves to 2012 as these three are training for the London Olympics. The present day story is woven in and around reminiscences by each of the three that fill in the history of their intertwined lives at the same time the present story becomes more and more complex.
My prediction is that this book will be much like Little Bee in that people will tend to either love or dislike it with few opinions landing somewhere in the middle. I think it will make an excellent book club choice because there is much to discuss. Kate and Zoe’s different reasons for wanting to win are only one of the issues. Kate and Jack have the complication of a daughter with leukemia. Zoe seems at times to be on a self destructive path. Their coach is torn by his devotion to both of the women and the possible future beyond racing that might be in store.
Cleave gradually puts all the puzzle pieces together for the reader and by the time I got to the last 100 or so pages I just wanted to keep reading straight through to the end. The emotional and psychological roller coasters of the story just picked up speed right along with the descriptions of the racing.
I’ve enjoyed watching the bicycle racing in previous Olympics and this book has me eager to watch again. To me it’s a fascinating mix of strategy, speed and power and that’s also how I see this book.
The strategy is in the way Cleave doles out the story. It’s a bit emotionally manipulative and contrived at times but that’s where I think the power comes in. Cleave has a way with words and phrases and paragraphs would jump out and catch my attention and my eye. I marked many passages on my way through the book. The speed is there in the final parts of the book. Several storylines hit the top of the rollercoaster at the same time and plummet down toward the end in a way that made me want to keep reading late into the night.