Gold by Chris Cleave

Ahh friendship, what a strange thing.

The book in one sentence: Two friends battle it out ... on their bicycles, for the same man, and for the same child.

Serious synopsis (from back cover): In Gold, Chris Cleave gives us an elegantly constructed, passionate story about friendship, marriage, parenthood, tragedy and redemption. The story belongs to two women, Kate and Zoe, world-class cyclists who have been close friends and even closer rivals since their first day of elite training years ago. They have love, fought, betrayed, forgiven, lost consoled, and grown up together. Now on the eve of their final Olympics each woman is tested to her physical, mental and emotional limit. Each will confront the other, face their own mortality, and be asked to decide: What exactly will you sacrifice for the people you love?

My thoughts: Oh that cover - so interesting (I have a thing for typographic art) and the premise of the story moreso what with the Olympics upcoming. Yup, sign me up for the GoodReads giveaway ... and ta-dah, it's in the mail. I sit down to after work, and before I know it, I'm a chapter in. I practically read this overnight. Overall I enjoyed this quick and engrossing read but I have mixed feelings about this one though. Why?
Gold by Chris Cleave

I really liked: The melding of the sport in the story -- I totally fell for Chris Cleave's descriptions of what professional cyclists feel, physically and emotionally, when competing. This is what really drew me into the book, kept me on the edge of anticipation, and I became a cyclist vicariously in this passage:
Ten seconds to go. Zoe stared at the black line on the track ahead of her front wheel. The thin black strip that brought you back to yourself. She breathed hard, getting the oxygen into her blood. Focusing. She looked along the curved line that bent gravity around the locus of her fury and called in all her demons and bound them all together in the center of her. She shook with the force of it. She held it on the very edge of control as the countdown reached the end. The absolute anger of her energy would kill her if she had to hold it for more than a few more seconds. She fought to keep it contained. The speed struggled hysterically to be born. For the three last impossible seconds she restrained it, focused between the race and the real world, under starter's orders. Her lips moved, she was praying for the whistle to go. - p. 107, Gold by Chris Cleave [ARC, paging may change]
Generally, the story moves along quickly with just enough suspense and some unpredictability which kept me moving along. I actually couldn't help myself going ooooohhhh, dang when I found out the truth about Sophie!

But ... (I will keep this spoiler free)

... Somehow I couldn't shake the feeling that I was being taken for a ride. It was like a telenovela to the hilt - too much melodrama, and not just a coincidences that felt somewhat contrived for me. 

... Unbelievable characters? Longsuffering Kate vs. ruthless Zoe. And Jake, the man caught in between (I never did like him, except when he is around Sophie). 

My internal dialogue:

To Kate: why do you choose to be friends with such a despicable person as Zoe? Why, why, why? Wake up and smell the coffee, woman! Zoe is out to get you. 

To Zoe: what the hell are you thinking? Do you not have a conscience? Will you stop blaming your being such a total *sshole on the death of your brother? 

And when it got to the so-called "redemption" part: Heck, what hat did you pull that out of? (No, I did not buy it, not after having read what a sad, sad woman she is.)

Sophie is another character I initially liked - an adorable girl suffering leukemia who didn't want to "trouble" her parents. But I soon tired of her longsuffering attitude, just like Kate's character. 

... Lastly, this is supposed to be about friendship and rivalry. The rivalry aspect was played up wonderfully, but the friendship side I think it's a farce of a friendship, one borne simply out of convenience. (And why would I want to celebrate something like that?)

An adrenaline-laden athletic melodrama that will keep you reading just as fast as the characters are cycling. Worth a read but more fluffy than I expected. 

One great thing is that I discovered this author and I think I will try out his other novels Little Bee and Incendiary. Check out Chris Cleaves' website for more about his work.

First line: Just on the other side of an unpainted metal door, five thousand men, women, and children were chanting her name. 

Last line: Far above them all, and falling through the skylights high in the vaulted roof of the velodrome the brave April light was golden.

I received this book on GoodReads First Reads.
This book goes on sale June 5, 2012.

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© guiltless readingMaira Gall