Congratulations to Chris Cleave whose book Gold is a reminder to everyone jaded by formulaic novels churned out by tired authors just how good contemporary fiction can be. Having just read it in one uninterruptable sitting, I have been left in a lather of frustration. Still several months out from publication date, I am itching to talk to someone about it, itching to put it into the hands of another reader.
Chris Cleave comes to Gold with a fine pedigree, with both Incendiary and The Other Hand being the sort of books that haunt you. Like its two predecessors, Gold is written with masterly control, has enough tension to keep the reader flooded with adrenalin and fidgetting with nerves, while it leaves the reader desperately re-examining their own values and beliefs.
The Gold of the title is the cycling medal in the upcoming London Olympics. The story unfolds around two female cyclists, their aging trainer, and a young very sick child who wraps up both her leukaemia and her parents’ fear of it, by escaping into a world of Death Stars and Lightsabers.
Cleave’s remarkable talent is to catapalt the reader right into the hearts and minds of his characters. In one pivotal scene involving a velodrome pursuit between the two women, I actually had to have a breather to break the tension. In another, in which the coach was coming to terms with his own physical limitations, my laughter was loud enough to wake the household. However, his crowning achievement is the gradual unravelling of motivations and memories with such authenticity and veracity, one would have thought he was a psychotherapist rather than a novellist.
About love, friendship, loyalty, ambition, sacrifice and courage. It is about ordinary people on their capacity to step up to being heroes. Gold packs a huge emotional punch and it is all delivered with the pace of the race itself. It leaves you breathless.