Gold by Chris Cleave

cleaveI first came across Chris Cleave’s brave debut novel Incendiary at a bookselling conference in 2005. This novel-length letter from an enraged mother to Osama bin Laden was written following an al-Qaeda bomb attack on a London soccer match (reading almost like a premonition to the London bomb attacks of July 2005, which happened within 24 hours of the book being launched). I found it completely gripping.

Gold is Cleave’s heart-wrenching new novel centring on two friends and professional cyclists, Zoe Castle and Kate Meadows, who met when they were trialling for the British Cycling Team and have been friends and rivals since they were 19. While Kate is renowned for more of a natural ability, Zoe is the more driven of the two. Kate is now married to a fellow professional cyclist, Jack Argall, and they have an eight-year-old daughter, Sophie, who suffers from leukaemia. Zoe is troubled by her own demons and has quite a reputation for sleeping around. When the International Olympic Committee changes its rules so that only one cyclist, either Zoe or Kate, will be eligible to compete in the 2012 London Games, Kate and Zoe’s friendship is really put to the test!

While it may sound like just another book for cycling enthusiasts, the novel is more interestingly about the emotional and physical limits of human endurance and the extremities of health and sickness than about those lycra-obsessed folk of a parallel universe. And despite all odds, the race scenes really got my heart pumping!

Cleave focuses on the characters and their entangled pasts, resulting in Zoe and Kate having to resolve whether winning is more important to them than their friendship. Cleave’s skills lie not only in his ability to provide a rare insight into ordinary people’s lives, but take you that step further and truly empathise with his characters.

I can assure you that Gold is definitely worth the breath-taking ride!

Emily Harms is Marketing Manager of Readings.