Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review - Gold by Chris Cleave (3/5 stars)

Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Comtemporary Fiction
Size: 336 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: July 3, 2012
ISBN: 978-1451672725
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: ARC from Amazon Vine
Rating: 3/5 stars

I got a copy of this book to review through the Amazon Vine program. It was a very engaging book that was hard to put down; but there were parts I didn’t enjoy. I also thought everything was a bit too tidily tied up for this to be an accurate representation of real life.

This is a story about three cyclists on their way to the Olympics. Kate, Zoe, and Jack meet at nineteen years of age during a training camp. They are all exceptional cyclists...they are all seemingly destined for Gold. Kate and Jack marry and Zoe remains competitive and alone. As the years go on things change. Kate misses her first chance at Gold when she has to stay home with her newborn girl. Kate misses her second chance when her daughter is diagnosed with Leukemia right before Kate’s race. Year pass and now it is time for Kate’s third and final chance to go to the Olympics. Will Kate and Zoe finally be able to meet up in an Olympic competition?

This ends up being a story about family versus competition. It is also the story about how one woman can ruin a lot of people’s lives. There are parts in this story that are very engaging and heartfelt and parts that just felt totally wrong. The story itself is told in both the past and present; we hear bits of both past and present from Kate, Zoe, Sophie, Jack and their coach.

Kate and Zoe are interesting and contrasting characters. Kate is naturally more talented but constantly puts others before herself. She is very Pollyanna in character and I absolutely could not understand how she got as far in competition as she had. She pretty much lets everyone walk all over her constantly. You can tell I didn’t really enjoy her as a character; although she did have to make some tough decisions and my heart went out to her at points in the book.

Zoe is an impossible character to like. She is competitive to the point of obsession. Her and Kate are supposedly friends, but even Zoe’s acts of friendship have a motive behind them. Zoe is truly one of the most destructive characters I have ever read about; she destroys everything.

Jack is another character that ends up being very hard to like. As secrets between the three characters unfold you find that Jack has made some very bad decisions in his past that have had huge consequences.

The most likable character of the bunch is Kate’s daughter, Sophie. Sophie is battling a horrible illness and constantly dreams that she is living in a Star Wars world; some of these scenes are heartbreaking but some of them are highly amusing. Watching how much effort Sophie puts into making sure her parents don’t worry too much about her is thought-provoking and again heartbreaking at times. Sophie is by far the most interesting character in this book.

There is a lot of drama in this book which I am not a huge fan of; think Lifetime type of drama. I did however enjoy the discussion of professional cycling and all the training the athletes went through. I myself am a biker and really enjoyed learning about what these athletes went through daily to keep themselves in Olympic condition.

The book ends up being engaging because it is propelled forward by two questions: will Sophie get better and will Kate go to the Olympics. The plot has a huge twist in the middle that was somewhat predictable.

Things are tied up in such a tidy and happy way, that the ending felt contrived and fake. After all the emotional turmoil throughout the book the ending felt completely false.

So, did I enjoy the book? Well I found it hard to put down and really wanted to know what was going to happen to Sophie. I however did not like the characters much; Jack, Zoe and the coach are incredibly selfish human beings who have made horrible life decisions. Kate is completely boring and hard to admire at all because she has no backbone. The plot was contrived, predictable and everything was tied up in a way that felt fake.

Overall this was an okay read. Those who are into the Lifetime drama sort of literature might enjoy this book. Also those who are into cycling might find some of the discussion around the sport interesting. I found it an engaging read, but still didn’t enjoy it much. Too much drama, characters that were hard to enjoy reading about, and a plot that was tied up in a way that felt very false.

I have heard Cleave’s book Little Bee is much better than this one, but after reading this one I am not eager to read anymore of Cleave’s books.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- 150+ Books Reading Challenge

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