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on 30 March 2013
I loved the intensity of this fictional story about elite cyclists. I loved the way the author described the intensity of the struggles and misfortunes both on and off the bikes, and the intensity of their relationships. Their seriously ill daughter brought an additional heartbreaking dimension to the story. I felt for all the main characters, even hard, single-minded Zoe who was not so likeable. The author gets under their skin and clearly portrays that elite athletes are not only a different breed, but that past setbacks and tragedies could possibly give some an extra competitive edge. Nevertheless, if you have a competitive spirit or if you enjoy pushing yourself and others of similar ability, then like me you may get a real buzz from reading some of the training sessions described in this book. I plan to read more from Chris Cleaves.
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on 17 June 2017
Enjoyable read.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 April 2017
This is a very compelling and readable novel about two female elite cyclists and those around them, as they compete to be selected for the 2012 Olympics. The sports element is really just to backdrop - albeit an interesting one - to a drama about family, friendship, ambitions and disappointments, which even the most idle coach potato will be able to relate to. Inevitably perhaps, for two women who've trained together since their teens, they are friends as well as rivals, despite being very different personalities.

Besides our female protagonists (Kate and Zoe), there are three important supporting characters with sections written in their point of view. The first is Sophie, eight year old daughter of Kate, who is suffering from leukaemia. Her sections are extremely well written, and ring true - not easy when writing from a child's view point. The use of third rather than first person works well. I found her a very believable character and the writing is never sentimental. Sophie's desire to protect the adults around her from anxiety about her illness is beautifully portrayed. I was desperate to know if she would be all right. The second supporting character is Jack, Kate's husband, also an Olympic cyclist and also trying to support his sick daughter as well as win a medal. And the third is Tom, who coaches them, whose battle with ageing after being an Olympian in his prime is handled with the same humour and sensitivity as Sophie's childhood illness.

The human drama of these five people is really gripping, as their story unfolds in the present but also the interesting backstory comes together. It's a moving story that reaffirms your faith in human nature. As a 30 something female, I must admit I often dislike characters of my own gender and age, but I actually warmed to both Kate and Zoe. They seemed realistic and interesting and not as self-obsessed as many of the modern female characters I read about. Chris Cleave does a great job of making them rounded characters - it would have been easy to have written Kate as a sickly saint that no one could believe in, but she never came across like that. Likewise, Zoe could have seemed implausibly cold and robotic, but there are plenty of touches that keep her away from that.

There's not a great deal here really about cycling - it's the backdrop of the story but not really the true theme. So if you're a sports buff hoping for a 'cycling story' you might be disappointed. But if you're looking for a well written family saga that's easy to read and compelling, this book will fit the bill perfectly.
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VINE VOICEon 31 January 2013
I have never read a Chris Cleave before but I was drawn to this because of the olympics. I was swept up in the fever of it and I thought this would make a great topic for a book. I was, however, completely put off by the cycling as that does nothing for me. I picked this up a number of times before I got into it.

Despite it being over 400 pages, there is a small cast of characters. Kate and Zoe are friends but also rivals as they are both cyclists. Then there is Jack, Kate's husband, who is also a cyclist. Kate and Jack are parents to Sophie, who has leukaemia and is absolutely obsessed with star wars. The final character is Tom, the cycling coach. The story follows all of them in the years between Athens and Beijing, and the build up to London.

It really is an enthralling story and I didn't see the twist coming. I was shocked! This is the kind of book that keeps you reading and I loved the different viewpoints. Sophie was so brave and Cleave wrote her really well. She is so frightened but not because of what she is going through but what she might be putting her parents through.

I couldn't review this book without mentioning the cover. It is so fitting for the story and was a big part of the attraction towards it.

The reason this didn't get the full five stars from me was to do with the twist. Without giving anything away, I just didn't find it believable how quickly Zoe changed her mind.

This is a great read though and I am jealous of anyone who still has this to read. If you let it pass you by, you are missing out. I will be looking for more by Cleave in the future.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Chris Cleave is one of those writers where you never know what to expect next, but you know it will be something different from last time and something well-written. Gold is the story of three Olympic cyclists, Zoe, Kate and Jack, along with Kate and Jack's daughter, Sophie, and Kate and Zoe's trainer, Tom. Tom coaches the two women from the age of 19 through three Olympic games.

This book started slightly slowly for me, but I started to find that I didn't want to put it down and I ended up finding it an emotional and excellent read. It's hard to talk about the story as the publishers were so reluctant to do so themselves, not even providing a blurb. This ploy was used with The Other Hand and then it sort of worked, but twice is too much and a normal blurb would be good next time. Anyway, it does make it hard to know how much to give away but it's basically a book about friendships, rivalry in love and sport, illness and how it affects lives and Olympic cycling.

Gold was a very topical read, the London Olympics having just closed when I started reading it. Cycling and sport is not of particular interest to me, and the book does have some technical information and details of races in it, but it's more about the characters than the story so don't let that put you off. The author writes about feelings very well, somehow managing not to simply tell us how a character feels but to actually make us understand and empathise.

Chris Cleave is a talented writer. I've enjoyed all three of his books and I'm sure he has something equally good in the pipeline for his next book.
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This is the story of Zoe and Kate, two competitive cyclists at the top of their game who have been racing against one another since they were teenagers. They are also best friends. They have a complicated back history which emerges gradually over the course of the book. The story is about the build up to the London 2012 Olympics and the tension hinges on who is going to take the gold medal. At the same time, Kate's daughter is suffering from leukaemia and that will be a significant sub-plot in the book.

I didn't greatly like this book - though by the end I realised I had something more invested in the story than I expected. Zoe and Kate's friendship has zero credibility. Zero! Zoe is a screwed up individual who tramples all over anyone and everyone who gets near her and will do anything to win. Kate is a freakishly perfect, kind and forgiving individual who has sacrificed her chances for her daughter again and again. I didn't feel that either of them were real people. The book took me a week to read because I kept losing interest in it - plus it's so repetitive that I'd pick it up and think "haven't I read this part before?"

Having said that, there IS genuine tension at the end and there are some good twists that you don't see coming. So while my initial thinking was to give the book two stars, I did enjoy it more than that.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was really excited when 'Gold' dropped through my letterbox, Chris Cleave's last novel 'The Other Hand' is one of the best novels that I've read in many years and I had very high hopes for Gold.

I was very dubious at the thought of a novel based around Olympic cyclists, but after reading reviews from other readers that I know well and trust, I was assured that this would not be a novel about sport, but that it would be about people and relationships.

Yes, I agree it's just just about cycling, but the world of the Olympic athlete does take up a huge chunk of the story, and to be honest I struggled with the first half of the novel. The four main characters are well-drawn but apart from the little girl, Sophie, I found it very difficult to connect with them. Zoe and Kate's relationship was a mystery to me. They are linked not just by their shared sport, but also through intricate family relationships. Zoe is a cold character who did and said nothing at all to redeem herself in my eyes, even when her full back story was revealed. I found Kate very one-dimensional, eager to please everyone, very forgiving, but lacking a back bone. It was the fact that I found their long-standing relationship unrealistic that impacted on the remainder of the story for me, I really didn't care. I didn't care if either of them qualified for the Olympics. However, I did care very much about Sophie, and her struggle with illness. Her strength of character shone through, even though I did find the 'Star Wars' connection quite irritating.

There is no doubt that Chris Cleave is a talented author - there are flashes of genius along the way, especially in the second half of the story. Some of his descriptions are emotionally stunning, but the emphasis on the world of the professional cyclist watered these down for me.

I guess this was just not my cup of tea, but it will not deter me from reading more of Chris Cleave's books.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I put off reading this book - it was hearing it was about cycling at the Olympics that did it. I really wasn't expecting to enjoy it, but I really should have known better - I've read Chris Cleave's other two books. And I didn't just enjoy it, I absolutely loved it and didn't want it to end. I don't have a sporty competitive bone in my body, but this book really isn't about sport - it's about love and the things human beings do to each other. I thought the characters were wonderfully drawn - Sophie and her Star Wars obsession is an absolute tour de force, but so is damaged Zoe, Jack the consummate father, and Tom the trainer. The only one I struggled with a little was Kate - for a number of reasons, but mainly because she just seemed too "nice" to be involved in the competitive world. Others have told the story in their reviews (some rather too fully...) but I'd urge everyone to read this book and defy your expectations. Images will stay with me a long time - Sophie's experience with the conveniently placed Millenium Falcon had me in tears, as did Tom in the bath, and some of the musical moments were magic. Emotional rollercoaster doesn't do it full justice, and the writing is absolutely superb. One of my books of the year.
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VINE VOICEon 5 April 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Honestly, the blurb on this book is SO annoying! "We're not going to tell you what it's about... it will make you cry... it will make you feel glad to be alive..." Oh, leave it out! It's a book about cycling, for heaven's sake. Okay, so it's also about love, betrayal, ambition and parenthood, but when it comes down to it, there's a lot of cycling. And no, it didn't make me cry or feel glad to be alive, or any of the other overblown claims from the publisher. Aargh!

I picked this book to review because I'd absolutely loved The Other Hand by the same author. But when I started reading and realised that the gold of the title meant Olympic gold, my heart sank. Perhaps that's why the publishers have gone for the mysterious blurb? I wouldn't have chosen it if I'd known the subject, that's for sure.

Anyway, the story is about professional cyclists and rivals, Zoe and Kate. Zoe is hard as nails, fiercely driven and ruthless. Winning means everything to her. Kate is also a brilliant athlete, but softer and kinder. She is married to Jack and they have a little girl, Sophie who is very ill. Zoe is single and likes it that way.

The novel charts their paths towards gold via a series of Olympic Games. The hope, the glory, the frustration and despair - it's all there. If you're into cycling, you'll probably love it. For me, though, the best-written parts of the novel were the scenes with Jack and Sophie. Although Sophie seems a lot older than her eight years - she is too mature to be realistic, I think, in the way that she shields her illness from her parents - the tenderness and gallows humour in these scenes was absolutely spot on. I loved her Star Wars obsession too.

An interesting look into what makes a professional athlete tick but overall, Sophie and Jack aside, it left me unmoved.
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on 24 December 2012
I read this book for my book club. I have never read a Chris Cleave before and I shan't ever again. Having followed the Olympics so avidly it started badly for me - did I really want to read a book about fictional cyclists when our real cyclists stories are surely far more worthy? Moving on from that, throw in a sick child, a love triangle, a predictable twist and a story told through eyes the whole time (every emotion was a flicker in the eyes, or the eyes said something but the mouth something else yada yada yada). It felt like lazy writing and was the least enjoyable book I've read for a very very long time. I got nothing out of it at all except anger that something as poorly written with a story so predictable could get published when there are so many good books out there that don't. If I could have rated it with less than 1 star, I would!
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