Sunday, June 17, 2012

Gold, Chris Cleave

Just on the other side of an unpainted metal door, five thousand men, women, and children were chanting her name. Zoe Castle didn't like it as much as she'd thought she would. She was twenty-four years old and she sat where her coach told her to sit, beside him, on a thin white bench with the blue protective film still on it. 

Gold is the story of two Olympic sprint bicyclists, Kate and Zoe. They are both extremely good, and both desperately want to win gold. They met in 1999 when they were 19 years old, and now, in 2012, the London Olympics will be their last chance to win a gold medal. Kate is naturally better than Zoe, but she is married and has an eight year old daughter named Sophie. Sophie is battling a second bout of leukemia, which had been in remission for three years. And Zoe has her own problems too. Then, a dramatic changes happens in the rules of the Olympics (I won't give it away.)

I was engaged by the descriptions of the world of ultra-professional cycling, but the thing that really moved me was Sophie's battle with leukemia. She's obsessed with Star Wars; it's sort of an analogy or metaphor for her own battle against the evil white blood cells attacking her. She's a Jedi, a Rebel, fighting against the much stronger force. Really powerful. I think that image will stick with me for a while.

In some ways, Gold kind of (just kind of) reminded me of Chariots of Fire in book form. It's not about runners, but it's about two bicyclists competing. Kate and Zoe are good friends off the track, but sometimes in the heat and frenzy of the competition, they can forget, and they are both fiercely competitive. The book is really about their relationship with one another, and how they handle it when they are competing. Gold also delved into Kate and Zoe's pasts and their childhood, skipping from time period to time period. Another thing was that I thought the title was really effective. Just one, simple word, but that's really what the book is all about: the competition for the longed-for gold medal.

Gold isn't actually coming out until July 3, so I was very happy and grateful to receive a review copy in advance from Simon & Schuster, the publisher. When the book comes out, I would definitely recommend it to everyone. It's a great read.

Read Gold:
  • if you are interested in the Olympics
  • if you are interested in professional cycling
  • if you like Chris Cleave
  • if you like books dealing with competition and friendship simultaneously 
321 pages, 4.5 stars.