Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gold by Chris Cleave

This most recent title by Chris Cleave, author of the much-touted Little Bee, follows the lives of three aging British Cycling athletes in the race to their final Olympics. Kate (the nice one) and Zoe (the naughty one) have been friends and rivals in and outside of the sport since their teens. Kate’s husband, Jack (the loveable chump), is our third world-class cyclist. Throw in the tear jerking plot twist of a young girl with cancer, and you have the recipe for Gold.

I hate to say it, but I’m sorry that Gold was the first book that I ever read by Chris Cleave. I was amused, yes. I would even go so far as to say entertained, but I was not truly impressed. I found Cleave’s main characters (possibly excluding the rough-and-tumble, emotionally busted coach Tom) to be only somewhat unbelievable and, due to this general lack of believability, infuriating. Cleave clearly has exceptional talent as a writer. I just don’t buy that he had it fully employed here. His small glimmers of emotional insight and spot-on social commentary were too bright to ignore:

“This new species of guys paired city shoes with backwoods beards. They played in bands but they worked in offices. They hated the rich but they bought lottery tickets, they laughed at comedies about the shittiness of lives that were based quite pointedly on their own, and worst of all they were so endlessly bloody gossipy. Every single thing they did, from unboxing a phone through to sleeping with his athlete, they had this compulsion to stick it online and see what everyone else thought.”

Where is this Chris Cleave? I would like him all the time, please.

Gold by Chris Cleave had impeccable timing coinciding with the London 2012 Olympics, was clearly well-researched, and made me really excited to watch cycling in the Olympics. A solid bronze.

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