Written by Chris Cleave



I recently had a mini-rant about buying books from the bargain section of Barnes & Noble.  In the interest of fairness, I need to take that back.  I read three bargain books in a row that were quite good, and this was one of them.  In fact, I’d even say that Gold broke my streak of choosing bad fiction books.  Thank goodness.

What It’s About

Gold is the story of Kate and Zoe, competitive cyclists who are both friends and rivals.  With the Olympics looming, their relationship is tested against their desire to achieve the dream they’ve spent their lives working towards.

The Good

The plot of this story is complex and layered without being dense, inaccessible, or exhausting.  Cleave creates a world that is recognizable (we’ve all seen the Olympics with its triumphs and its heartbreaks), but it is a world that is just foreign enough to be interesting.  His characters, like the plot, are complex and layered.  You understand what motivates each character.  You can predict what they’ll do next,  And then, just like in real life, something unexpected occurs and the characters react in inexplicable ways.  It’s the sort of thing that can make me crazy when I read it, unless it’s done well.  Cleave does it well.

The Not-So-Good

As good as this book was, there were a few minor issues that kept it from being classified as “great” for me.  There was something about the pacing of the revelations that seemed a bit too forced to me.  It was like Cleave tried too hard to write something meaningful instead of telling a good story.  There were moments that seemed to be designed to tug at your heart instead of being strictly necessary to the tale.  Looking back, it was all leading towards the climax, so maybe it was the pacing or the tone.

Final Thoughts

This was a very good book.  It was well written with complete characters.  The pacing was well done, and the setting was interesting.  It occasionally felt a bit pretentious, like Cleave felt like he was giving the reader a gift by deigning to tell the story.  But overall, this was a good book, and I’m glad I read it.