"Gold" by Chris Cleave

Kate Argall and Zoe Castle have been friends and rivals since they met at the age of nineteen when they made the national program in track cycling.  At the age of thirty-two they are now facing the biggest, and last, race of their lives - the 2012 Olympics in their home country.  

Zoe has won gold at the past two Olympics games and she cannot fathom what will happen if she doesn't win a third.  Kate has missed the last two Olympic games because of the demands of motherhood, Athens in 2004 after her daughter was born and and Beijing in 2008 after her daughter was diagnosed with the leukemia that almost killed her.

Each woman has the drive and desire to win the gold medal.  But each woman has off the track trials that are pulling their attention in a different direction.  And when the Olympic committee makes the decision that only one woman can race at the Games, Zoe and Kate's friendship will be put to its biggest test.

Gold, by Chris Cleave, is about two very different women, thrown into a friendship through competitive sport, who have dedicated every moment of their lives to the pursuit of Olympic gold.  It is a fascinating look at the high training level of Olympic athletes while at the same time a heart-tugging story about how life intersects with our dreams and the lengths to which we will go to make them happen.

Jack, Kate's husband, is also an elite cyclist who has won Olympic gold and who also knows first hand what Zoe will do to win.  Sophie is Jack and Kate's eight-year-old daughter who is battling leukemia and trying her hardest to hide from her parents just how ill she is feeling.  Sophie escapes from her illness by retreating to a fantasy world in which she helps the Star Wars rebels fight the Empire.  And Tom is the aging cycling coach, himself an elite athlete who missed out on Olympic gold by one-tenth of a second.  Together, this group is determined to get Zoe and Kate to the Olympics, to have them achieve their dreams but who also inhabit the world that diverts their attention away from the track.

The first half of the book was a little slow for me.  It is a fantastic look at the world of Olympic sports and definitely gives you a new perspective on the sport of cycling.  The book jumps throughout time, between when Jack, Kate and Zoe meet at the age of nineteen and the current day, setting up the story with just enough suspense.  But I felt that during the first half of the book I just couldn't connect with any of the characters, with the exception of Sophie.

However, by the second half of the book, as events begin to unfold and you come to understand the history between Jack, Kate and Zoe the story really picked up for me.  I was finally able to feel for guarded and tough Zoe, a character I thought I wouldn't feel any attachment to at all.  And as Cleave unfolds how the competition between Zoe and Kate isn't just on the track, the book begins to gain some emotion.

Gold is an intricate story, full of twists and turns, set in an exciting world, that lacks just a bit of emotion.  It is an interesting look at friendship pushed to the brink under the stress of elite competition and where life takes us in the pursuit of our dreams.  There is nothing earth-shattering, but still a worthy read.

I received this book courtesy of Random House of Canada.  The opinions expressed above are my own and I have received no compensation for this review.


  1. I guess you're right about the difficulty of connecting with the characters in the first half. It was so plot driven that I didn't have time to stop and think if I really cared about them, but the answer is that I didn't. I just wanted to know what happened! I agree - nothing earth-shattering, but enjoyable none the less.

    1. And sometimes that's what makes a book fantastic, that even though there is nothing earth shattering, you enjoy it, because it shows the strength of the writing.

  2. I think the writing in this book is better than that in Little Bee, but I found the story less compelling. But that Sophie--I think Cleave does a masterful job with the portraiture of children.

  3. I haven't read Little Bee, I wanted to but never got to it. Will definitely read it now. Sophie was an incredible character, he wrote her brilliantly.


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