Gold by Chris Cleave

gold chris cleaveAs it is the final day of the London Olympics, it seems like a good time to talk to Chris Cleave's Gold. In Gold, two women are competing with each other for a spot in track cycling for Great Britain. London 2012 will probably be their last Olympics. Will they both make it? How much will they have to sacrifice to get there?

In Zoe's case, she's already sacrificed everything. Cycling -- competing really -- is her life. There is nothing else. All she has is cycling, rage and the need to win. She has no problem messing with people's heads and lives in order to accomplish her goals. Will she mess with Kate and Jack's life, again? Meanwhile Kate tends to put others needs before her own. She will put both Jack and Sophie ahead of her. Can she take care of Sophie and train at the same time? Can she sacrifice enough to beat Zoe without sacrificing everything? Is Jack behind her 100% even as he's training for the Olympics himself?

Sophie certainly wants her mother to win and knows that she's part of what is holding her back. Sophie has cancer and is undergoing treatment at the same time her parents are training. Her mother has missed the last two Olympics because of her. Her mother has to go to this one. Sophie just needs to stop her parents from seeing just how sick she's getting.

Cleave has constructed the book so it's rather like a puzzle. He carefully and selectively doles out information and we're supposed to put the puzzles together to figure out how these women are friends and what happened to them. Often you'll find yourself asking if they really are friends. How could so much happen between these women? At times you'll want Zoe to win, simply so that she has something in her life, and at others you just want Kate to mop the floor with her.

As much as I liked Sophie -- and I did, she was the character I wanted to yell at the least --  her obsession with Star Wars just just that little bit too much for me. I like Star Wars, (quite a bit, actually) but Sophie was really into it. Sometimes that intensity, especially when she started talking about the fighters in extensive detail,  was a bit distancing. I understand that was kind of the point, but Sophie was the one character I wanted to have a connection with.

I put this book on my summer reading list and I still stand by that even though I didn't love it. While I think that the characters in this book are rather over the top, it is a glimpse at what each athlete sacrifices to get to the Olympic Games.

I appreciate that look inside the world of Olympic track cycling, but I really hope that most Olympic athletes have more mundane personal lives.