Gold by Chris Cleave
Gold is one of the best books I read in 2012. It is extremely well-written, thought-provoking and emotionally engaging. In fact, the book delivers one heck of an emotional wallop. Gold explores the theme of success, and what people have to give up in order to achieve at the highest levels, and whether the sacrifices they ultimately make are worth it.
The book centres around three Olympic cyclists who have a long history of training together. Two of them, Kate and Jack, are married and have a young daughter, Sophie. Zoe makes the third spoke of this competitive wheel. She is single and ruthlessly determined to take gold at the next Olympics at any cost. The women’s coach, Tom, watches on with a great deal of concern as they train for the big event – with Zoe seeming to unravel emotionally – and Kate torn from the goal of achieving gold by the burden of caring for her young daughter, Sophie, who is going through treatments for leukaemia. As the book progresses the complicated history between the three athletes is slowly revealed, adding a great deal of depth to this page-turning read.
Chris Cleave’s portrayal of a Sophie going through cancer treatments is pitch-perfect, and admirably shows how brave and wonderful children – and indeed, the entire family – can be when faced with a life-threatening illness. Chris Cleave also captures the blood, sweat and tears of athletes competing at this high level, where naked ambition is the norm and to win is everything. There is simply no room to come second. This is a brilliant book and one I would highly recommend to everyone, whether they follow sports or not. This is a fascinating look at part of the human psyche. How much would you give up to achieve your own version of ‘gold’?