GOLD by Chris Cleave
Chris Cleave had a chequered start to his writing career. His first book Incendiary had little initial impact because, being a narrative about the effects of terrorism in London, it had the misfortune of being published at the time of the July 7th bombings in 2005. His second book, however, provided him with the adrenalin rush of selling in millions. The Other Hand caught the attention of the reading public, and you could see people on planes and trains hungrily devouring the text.
In Gold, Cleave could be accused of jumping on the bandwagon of using the Olympics as the launch pad for boosted sales. This device is used all the time, especially in the case of anniversaries of significant events. Gold takes us into the world of track cycling, into the fortunes and misfortunes of three track cyclists as they battle their way through three Olympics culminating, of course, in the London Olympics. Although Cleave himself literally trained for this book by jumping on a bike and immersing himself in training schedules, this book has a narrative that takes us far beyond the straight jacket of dieting and nutrition, of cadences and power output, of oxygen depletion and heart rate monitors.
It takes us into the private lives of people who have to overcome serious complications and challenges, who have to balance friendship with competition, who have to make decisions about someone they love and endanger their ability to compete in the Games. There is sentimentality and emotion in abundance; there is the stock comic character to lighten the burden; there is the fraught relationship between two competing girls who, off the track, are the best of friends.
As the blurb of the books states that, if you have read his other two books “you’ll know that what his books are about is only part of the story – what really matters is how they make you feel”.