Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book Review: Gold by Chris Cleave

Title:  Gold
Author: Chris Cleave
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads:
What would you sacrifice for the people you love? 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.

Kate is the more naturally gifted, but the demands of her life have a tendency to slow her down. Her eight-year-old daughter Sophie dreams of the Death Star and of battling alongside the Rebels as evil white blood cells ravage her personal galaxy—she is fighting a recurrence of the leukemia that nearly killed her three years ago. Sophie doesn’t want to stand in the way of her mum’s Olympic dreams, but each day the dark forces of the universe seem to be massing against her.

Devoted and self-sacrificing Kate knows her daughter is fragile, but at the height of her last frenzied months of training, might she be blind to the most terrible prognosis?

Intense, aloof Zoe has always hovered on the periphery of real human companionship, and her compulsive need to win at any cost has more than once threatened her friendship with Kate—and her own sanity. Will she allow her obsession, and the advantage she has over a harried, anguished mother, to sever the bond they have shared for more than a decade?

Echoing the adrenaline-fueled rush of a race around the Velodrome track,  Gold  is a triumph of superbly paced, heart-in-throat storytelling. With great humanity and glorious prose, Chris Cleave examines the values that lie at the heart of our most intimate relationships, and the choices we make when lives are at stake and everything is on the line.

My Review:
My first question is, did you read Cleave's Little Bee?  If not, you should.  It got a ton of hype when it was released in 2008, and in my opinion, completely lived up to it.  That was what got me so excited for this, his next novel.  Surprisingly (given how talked-up Little Bee was), I didn't hear much chatter about Gold before it released.  And now, post-reading, I am VERY surprised about that.  Because I thought this was just as good, if not better, than his last novel.

First off, I read this during the London Olympics, which made me that much more engrossed as I delved into it.  Reading a fictional novel about female cyclists at the Olympics is pretty cool when you're actually watching female cyclists at the Olympics on your TV.  However, as awesome as it was, I don't recommend waiting another 4 years before you read this one.  You need to read it MUCH sooner.

This book is all about the character development.  Your perceptions of both Zoe and Kate morph, change, and get flipped on their heads multiple times throughout the novel.  The protagonist(s) in every novel are expected to change during the course of it, but Cleave brings that idea to another level.  I love the complexity of these ladies, and the intricacies of their relationship brings so much to the story.  Zoe was especially captivating.  I alternately wanted to punch her in the face and be her friend throughout the book.

Not to mention, there are some OMG moments that will keep you completely riveted.  I know a book is good when it makes me wish my son would sleep during naptime for just TEN MORE MINUTES, PLEASE, ANYTHING FOR ME TO FINISH THIS CHAPTER.  Cleave does a good job of throwing you for a loop when you didn't even know a loop was going to be thrown.  I would say more about this, but I don't want to hit spoiler territory.  I know I'm new to blogging, but TRUST ME, Y'ALL.

An added bonus is that Cleave clearly did his research on indoor cycling.  I knew next to nothing about the sport before reading (exact quote to my husband: "I thought they only biked outside at the Olympics?"), but the details in this book let you in on everything from the curve of the track to the wind patterns behind the riders.  Really well done.

Overall?  Don't miss this one.  And replay some Olympics clips online while you read, just to get yourself in the spirit.

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