The book Gold by Chris Cleave has been everywhere this summer, from prominent tables and windows in bookstores to the top of July’s Indie Next List . It’s timely release coincides with the start of the 2012 London Olympics next week. Gold tells the story of competing cyclists Zoe and Kate. Kate has a husband named Jack who also cycles. She also has her daughter, Sophie. Zoe has a string of men, and they both have a coach, Tom. They also both have the same dream of winning gold at the London olympics.
When I first got this book, I knew I was going to read it, but I was expecting a full on sports book. Sports and cycling do take an ever important role in the plot, as well as in every character’s decisions within the story, but I would not classify Gold as a sports novel. This is because of Cleave’s raw yet touching prose and his attention to detail with each character that he sets on the page. I have heard that authors are supposed to know their characters inside and out. Cleave picks his characters apart piece by piece and leaves every little bit of them on the page for the reader to know, hate, pity or love. Each character has a raw backstory that draws the reader into the plot, and towards the character themselves. I found both Zoe and Sophie, an eight year old child who is battling leukemia in her own way, to be hauntingly strong characters that stuck with me throughout my reading of the book, and after I was done.
There are a couple of concepts in Cleave’s book that could be cliche if they were done wrong, such as “frienemies”, a sick child, or a competitive love triangle. But, I believe that Cleave delves into his characters and their motivations and pasts so deeply that it is hard to claim a cliche in his novel. This book is definitely a must read, both for the London Olympics, and it’s powerful characters. I was hooked.
I also must admit, I have not read Little Bee yet, but after reading this it is definitely going on the list.