Author: Chris Cleave
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Opening lines: “…Just on the other side of an unpainted metal door, five thousand men, women and children were chanting her name …”
Blurb: If your dreams pull you in one direction and your heart in another, which should you follow? This is the question that haunts Kate Meadows, a world champion athlete whose eight-year-old daughter Sophie is battling a recurrence of childhood leukaemia just as Kate is about to compete for her last chance at an Olympic gold medal. For years, Kate has sacrificed everything for her family and watched her best friend and closest rival, Zoe Castle, conquer the world stage. Kate has never won gold and will have to go through Zoe–who has everything to lose–to get it. Now her child is facing a life-threatening illness, and the stakes are higher than ever. How can she do what is right for her daughter without abandoning all of her dreams?
My Thoughts: Last year I read Chris Cleave’s ‘Little Bee’ (aka On the Other Hand) and it was an ‘A’ read for me so leaped onto GOLD as soon as I got the chance. While this is a story of two top bike racers, Zoe and Kate, competing for the chance to win Olympic Gold, it is not really just a sports story. It is about team mates who are friends off the track and deadly combatants on the track. While the reader does get to see the gruelling training, sacrifices and just what top athletes put themselves through to reach the top of their careers, GOLD is much deeper than that. GOLD looks at relationships, parenthood, priorities, dealing with media and expectations of sponsors, and the impact of the past on the present. Kate and her husband are both top cyclists and both work together to care for Sophie. Right now Jack is taking a bit of a back seat so that Kate can have her crack at an Olympic gold medal but it is hard work and the guilt of going for gold and supporting her daughter plagues Kate.
“…Looking after a very sick child was the Olympics of parenting...”
Zoe already has an Olympic Gold, but she is totally driven to get another one because she believes she is defined by her sports persona and without the accolades she will be nothing.
“…Off the bike she was like a smoker without cigarettes, never sure what to do with her hands. As soon as she got off the bike, her heart was expected to perform all these baffling secondary functions like loving someone and feeling something and belonging somewhere – when all she’d ever trained it to do was pump blood…”
The story of GOLD has five main characters that the story is built around, Zoe, Kate, Jack, Sophie and Tom (the girl’s coach) these interlinking of these characters could be compared to the five interlinking Olympic rings perhaps? I am not good at recognising symbolism in books so it is probably nothing. Zoe is hard to understand, I liked her the least of all the characters as she was out for number one. She pretended friendship with Kate but only to use her and then time and time again betrayed her and threatened her. As a result I was not that fond of Kate either as she was so sweet and forgiving and self-sacrificing to the point of abnormality – no-one can be that nice. At least Zoe is believable in her actions as a celebrity sports star. Sophie was a strong little character and my favourite – while she is suffering from leukaemia she is constantly trying to remain strong to stop her parents worrying about her so much. For self-preservation she retreats into a world of Star Wars and searches for the ‘the force’ to help her through her crisis.
GOLD is well-written and, for a drama-ridden story with the potential to slide into the very mire of depression, Cleave did very well to lighten it up with just the right touch of humour. The transmission between the different points of view and the past and the present is very smooth and fully develops the increasingly complex connections between the characters. The tension development between the two women unfolds during the story as the sub plots are gradually revealed and dealt with. I probably could have done without the epilogue, for me it let the rest of the book down, but it was nice to see what happened next, but was a little rushed and felt like an afterthought.
I have his first book ‘Incendiary’ on my TBR pile – so may move it up closer to the top
Rating: Above average. Was very readable and I really liked it but was easily able to put it down and walk away for a while.
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