Monday, 6 August 2012


Finished August 4
Gold by Chris Cleave

I was a little reluctant to start this novel as I'm not a big sports fan, but boy am I glad I read it. The plot does revolve around 2 British women, Olympic-level cyclists, but it is about them as people. That's not to see I didn't learn a lot about competitive cycling that I didn't know (admittedly I didn't know much), because there is definitely information on that here, but it is woven seamlessly into the plot. We see the training, the structure and support behind the competitors, and the long road to success.
Kate and Zoe are the two women, and they met at the age of nineteen at a national training program in track cycling, the kind that is done in the velodrome, where they also began training with their coach Tom, and met Jack, Kate's future partner.
As the book begins, they are 24 and Zoe, Jack, and Tom are at the Athens Olympics, while Kate is back in England with baby Sophie. The book goes forward from there, with the background story brought in through the characters' looking back. The main action takes place in the lead up to the 2012 London Olympics, with both Zoe and Kate training for the events, Zoe struggling with her drive, her history, and her fame, and Kate struggling to continue to be a good mother to her fragile daughter.
For both women, this is their last chance at an Olympics. Next time, their age will mean they won't be able to vie against younger competitors. We see Zoe as she struggles with her emotions, her anger, her guilt, her strong competitive drive that has her taking crazy risks, even off the track.
Kate is a natural rider and has the drive, but has been sidetracked before by her love and concern for her family. Jack tries to be a good father, but Kate isn't always willing to step away, and Jack often feels that he is more the fun parent. Sophie has health issues, but she wants her parents to do well too, and hides the extent of her illness when she can.
This book is about drive, friendships, love, and just being human. The characters come alive for us as complex people, not just the Olympic stars we see in the news. A great read.

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