Gold

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Overview

What would you sacrifice for the people you love?

KATE AND ZOE met at nineteen when they both made the cut for the national training program in track cycling—a sport that demands intense focus, blinding exertion, and unwavering commitment. They are built to exploit the barest physical and psychological edge over equally skilled rivals, all of whom are fighting for the last one tenth of a second that separates triumph from despair.

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Gold: A Novel

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Overview

What would you sacrifice for the people you love?

KATE AND ZOE met at nineteen when they both made the cut for the national training program in track cycling—a sport that demands intense focus, blinding exertion, and unwavering commitment. They are built to exploit the barest physical and psychological edge over equally skilled rivals, all of whom are fighting for the last one tenth of a second that separates triumph from despair.

Now at thirty-two, the women are facing their last and biggest race: the 2012 Olympics. Each wants desperately to win gold, and each has more than a medal to lose.

Kate is the more naturally gifted, but the demands of her life have a tendency to slow her down. Her eight-year-old daughter Sophie dreams of the Death Star and of battling alongside the Rebels as evil white blood cells ravage her personal galaxy—she is fighting a recurrence of the leukemia that nearly killed her three years ago. Sophie doesn’t want to stand in the way of her mum’s Olympic dreams, but each day the dark forces of the universe seem to be massing against her.

Devoted and self-sacrificing Kate knows her daughter is fragile, but at the height of her last frenzied months of training, might she be blind to the most terrible prognosis?

Intense, aloof Zoe has always hovered on the periphery of real human companionship, and her compulsive need to win at any cost has more than once threatened her friendship with Kate—and her own sanity. Will she allow her obsession, and the advantage she has over a harried, anguished mother, to sever the bond they have shared for more than a decade?

Echoing the adrenaline-fueled rush of a race around the Velodrome track, Gold is a triumph of superbly paced, heart-in-throat storytelling. With great humanity and glorious prose, Chris Cleave examines the values that lie at the heart of our most intimate relationships, and the choices we make when lives are at stake and everything is on the line.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Zoe Castle and Kate Meadows are top-ranking cyclists, both competing for the same spot on the 2012 British Olympic cycling team, but they are also long-time best friends. On any given day, their finishing times might be close, but their personalities sometimes could hardly seem more different. Kate is married to fellow biker Jack Argall and is the doting mother of an eight-year-old daughter who has leukemia. More driven than her naturally talented rival, Zoe leads a quite unpredictable life and has earned some recent notoriety for being a tad promiscuous. This novel by Little Bee author takes you beyond race strategies and talk of performance-enhancing drugs to reveal the human complexities of sports. (P.S. The timing couldn't be more perfect: The London Olympics run from July 27th to August 12th.)

Publishers Weekly
Cleave (Little Bee) goes for the gold and brings it home in his thrillingly written and emotionally rewarding novel about the world of professional cycling. Zoe Castle and Kate Meadows met at age 19 trying out for the British Cycling Team and have been friends and rivals for 13 years now. Kate might have more natural ability, but Zoe is the more driven of the two. Kate is married to a fellow racer, Jack Argall, and they have an eight-year-old daughter, Sophie, who suffers from leukemia. Zoe is pursued by her own demons and has a tabloid reputation for sleeping around, which doesn’t sit well with her agent. Things begin to heat up when the International Olympic Committee changes its rules so that only one cyclist, either Zoe or Kate, will be eligible to compete in the 2012 London Games. Cleave expertly cycles through the characters’ tangled past and present, charting their ever-shifting dynamic as ultra-competitive Zoe and Kate are forced to decide whether winning means more to them than friendship, building to a winner-take-all race at the Manchester Velodrome. Cleave likewise pulls out all the stops getting inside the hearts and minds of his engagingly complex characters. The race scenes have true visceral intensity, leaving the reader feeling as breathless as a cyclist. From start to finish, this is a truly Olympic-level literary achievement. Agent: Jennifer Joel, ICM. (July)
People
“A heartstring-tugger with an adrenaline-fueled plot from the bestselling author of Little Bee.
From the Publisher
“Novels about sport are notoriously hard to pull off . . . Gold, Chris Cleave’s third novel, is a skillful demonstration of the form. . . . This is no niche book for aficionados looking for a brief summer distraction. Instead, cycling is the backdrop for a deeper exploration of the struggle between the physical and the psychological . . . Gold works as a novel because Mr. Cleave manages to make the reader care about what it takes to win—or even to take part. . . . The small details speak loudly. . . . Cleave knows what makes a good story. Here, his concern is not with macho physicality or crossing a line, but with the endless and enduring human endeavors: love, death and what is left when hopes and dreams are crushed or fulfilled. A book to savor long after the Olympic games are over.”—The Economist

“[Cleave's] descriptions of riding fast, world's-fastest fast, are breathtaking.” —Los Angeles Times

“Cleave is excellent on the technical details of the athletic life which, along with its physical and mental demands, requires further personal sacrifices, both of privacy and happy relationships. . . . This book overflows with astute perceptions. One of the most moving is the parallel drawn between the athletes' need to live in the present . . . and the more devastating necessity for the parents of a sick child to not consider the horrors the future may bring.”—Times Literary Supplement (UK)

“Cleave writes of the physical experience of cycling at top speed with clarity and vigor. . . . A gripping tale with many surprising turns on the way to its photo-finish climax.”Dallas Morning News

“Readers of Little Bee, Cleave’s previous novel, will remember his gift with turning a phrase. . . . Those weary of light summer reading (Hello, Fifty Shades) will also relish Cleave’s rich descriptions.”Louisville Courier-Journal

People
The #1 IndieNext Pick for July
*
An Instant New York Times bestseller
*
One of Marie Claire’s “Favorite Reads”
*
A DailyBeast/Newsweek Book Club Pick
*
A Martha Stewart Living Book Club Pick
*
A USA Today Books Pick“A heartstring-tugger with an adrenaline-fueled plot from the bestselling author of Little Bee.
Library Journal
Timed to publish with the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Cleave's latest novel demonstrates the determination of three extraordinary athletes in a story about true sacrifice. Kate and Jack Argall are Olympic-level cyclists from Manchester, England, gearing up for the 2012 Olympic Games. Kate and her close friend Zoe Castle share a coach, Tom Voss, who had a shot at the gold in cycling in the 1968 Olympics but lost by one-tenth of a second. Now in his sixties, with bad knees and false teeth, he knows London is their last Olympics. However, Kate and Jack have the added responsibility of caring for their eight-year-old daughter, Sophie, who was diagnosed with leukemia four years before when they were all competing in the Beijing games. Sophie, now bald and frail, but with championship grit, blocks out her illness by imagining herself a part of Star Wars scenarios. The life of these three committed athletes is so intertwined, so complex, that the outcome is sure to be a surprise. VERDICT Close on the heels of his international best seller Little Bee, British author Cleave has written another story so riveting that it is impossible to put down. [See Prepub Alert, 1/21/12.]—Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Grand Junction, CO
Kirkus Reviews
After the enormous popular success of his second novel (Little Bee, 2009, etc.), British author Cleave turns to the world of Olympic speed cyclists to explore the shifting sands of ambition, loyalty and love. Tom, who just barely missed his own medal in 1968, is coaching Kate and Zoe to represent Britain at the 2012 Olympics, which the 32-year-old women know will be their last. They are best friends but fierce rivals. Zoe, who already has won four Olympic golds, lives only to race and will do anything, including sacrifice friends, ethics and her own emotional needs, to come in first. Though technically as fast, Kate is a perpetual runner -up, and compared to Zoe, she seems almost soft; her willingness to put family needs first has caused her to pass up two previous Olympic competitions. And then there is Jack, who has his own Olympic golds. He met Zoe and Kate when the three were stars in a program Tom ran to train Britain's most talented adolescent cycling prospects. Jack was the sexy boy down from Scotland obviously bound for glory. Although he and Zoe shared a brief, highly charged and emotionally fraught affair, Kate was the one he fell in love with and married. Their little girl Sophie is the novel's real heart. Cleave has a gift for portraying difficult children who pull every heartstring. Battling leukemia and obsessed with Star Wars, Sophie furtively watches her parents' reactions to her illness. Kate both embraces and resents that she is the one who must make the sacrifices for Sophie, while Jack's commitment to his wife and daughter is deeper, if more complex, than Kate recognizes. Meanwhile, emotionally stunted Zoe is facing a personal crisis of her own, both public and private. Then higher-ups change the rules, and father figure Tom must choose whether Kate or Zoe is going to the Olympics. In weaker hands this would seem a bit contrived, but Cleave knows how to captivate with rich characters and nimble plotting.
The Times (UK)
“Cleave is an acutely intelligent wordsmith. Some of the sentences cut so deep you want to scream out in pain and recognition . . . This is an inspirational and moving novel in so many ways, and everyone should read it.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451672725
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 7/3/2012
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 626,436
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Chris Cleave
Chris Cleave is the author of Incendiary and the #1 New York Times bestseller Little Bee. He lives with his wife and three children in Kingston-upon-Thames, England. Visit him at ChrisCleave.com or on Twitter @ChrisCleave.
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Read an Excerpt

Gold

August 24, 2004
Changing room, Olympic Velodrome, Athens, women’s sprint cycling Olympic gold medal race


Just on the other side of an unpainted metal door, five thousand men, women, and children were chanting her name. Zoe Castle didn’t like it as much as she’d thought she would. She was twenty-four years old and she sat where her coach told her to sit, beside him, on a thin white bench with the blue protective film still on it.

“Don’t touch the door,” he said. “It’s alarmed.”

It was just the two of them in the tiny subterranean changing room. The walls were freshly plastered, and little hardened curds of the stuff lay on the cement floor where they’d fallen from the trowel. Zoe kicked at one. It came detached, skittered away, and dinged against the metal door.

“What?” said her coach.

Zoe shrugged. “Nothing.”

When she’d visualized success—when she’d dared to imagine making it this far—the floors and the walls of every building in Athens had been Platonic surfaces, hewn from an Olympian material that glowed with inner light. The air had not smelled of drying cement. There hadn’t been this white plastic document wallet on the floor, containing the manufacturer’s installation guide for the air-conditioning unit that stood, partially connected, in the corner of the room.

Her coach saw her expression and grinned. “You’re ready. That’s the main thing.”

She tried to smile back. The smile came out like a newborn foal: its legs buckled immediately.

Overhead, the public stamped its feet in time. The start was overdue. Air horns blared. The room shook; it was so loud that her back teeth buzzed in her jaw. The noise of the crowd was liquidizing her guts. She thought about leaving the velodrome by the back door, taking a taxi to the airport, and flying home on the first available jet. She wondered if she would be the first Olympian ever to do that simple, understandable thing: to quietly slope off from Olympus. There must be something she could do with herself, in civilian life. Magazines loved her. She looked good in clothes. She was beautiful, with her glossy black hair cropped short and her wide green eyes set in the pale, haunted face of an early European saint. There was the slightest touch of cruelty in the line of her lips, a hint of steel in the set of her face that caused the eye to linger. Maybe she should do something with that. She could give interviews, laughing backstage after the show when the journalist asked did she know she looked quite a lot like that British girl who ran off from the Olympics—what was her name again? Ha! she would say. I get that question all the time! And by the way, whatever did become of that girl?

Her coach’s breathing was slow and even.

“Well you seem okay,” said Zoe.

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Just another day at the office, right?”

“Correct,” said Tom. “We’re just clocking in to do our job. I mean, what do you want—a medal?”

When he saw how she looked at him, he raised his hands in supplication. “Sorry. Old coaching joke.”

Zoe scowled. She was pissed off with Tom. It wasn’t helping her at all, his insouciance—his pretense that this wasn’t a huge deal. He was usually a much better coach than this, but the nerves were getting to him just when she most needed him to be strong. Maybe she should change coaches, as soon as she got back to England. She thought about telling him now, just to wipe that faux-wise smile off his face.

The worst part was that she was shivering uncontrollably, despite the unconditioned heat. It was humiliating, and she couldn’t make it stop. She was already suited and warmed up. She’d given a urine sample and eight cc’s of blood that must have been mostly adrenaline. She’d recorded a short, nervy piece to camera for her sponsors, signed the official race entry forms, and pinned her race number to the back of her skinsuit. Then she’d removed it and pinned it back on again, the right way up. There was nothing left to occupy these terrible minutes of waiting.

The crowd went up another frenzied gear.

She slammed the flats of her hands down on the bench. “I want to go up there! Why are they keeping the door locked?”

Tom yawned and waved the question away. “It’s for our own safety. They’ll let us up once security have checked the corridors.”

Zoe held her head in her hands and rocked back and forth on the bench. It was torture, being locked in this tiny room, waiting for the race officials to release them. She couldn’t stop her body shaking and she couldn’t take her eyes off the metal door. It trembled on its hinges from the crowd noise. It was a strong door, designed to resist autograph seekers indefinitely or fire for thirty minutes, but fear came straight through it.

“God…” she whispered.

“Scared?”

“Shitting myself. Honestly, Tom, aren’t you?” She looked up at him.

He shook his head and leaned back. “At my age the big event isn’t what scares you.”

“So what is?”

He shrugged. “Oh, you know. The lingering sensation that in pursuit of my own exacting goals and objectives I might not have been as generous in spirit as I could have been with regard to the needs and dreams of the people I cared most about or for whom I was emotionally responsible.”

He popped the gum he was chewing and inspected his nails. Zoe seethed.

From the stands above them, a fresh cheer shook the building. The announcer was whipping up the crowd. They roared Zoe’s name. They stamped harder. In the changing room the temporary strip light went off and flickered back to life by stuttering increments. A sudden rill of dust fell from an unfinished break in the plasterboard ceiling.

Tom said, “You think this building will hold?”

Zoe exploded. “Shut up, will you? Shut up, shut up, shut up!”

Tom grinned. “Oh come on, this is just another bike race. It’s gravy.”

“Five thousand people aren’t screaming for you.”

He leaned close and took her arm. “You know what you should be scared of? The day they aren’t shouting your name. Then you’ll be like me. You’ll be the dust collecting in the cracks between the boards of the track. You’ll be the spit drying on the chewing gum stuck underneath the seats. You’ll be the sound of the brooms sweeping up after the crowd has pissed off. You’d rather be all of that? Would you?”

She shook her head, sulkily.

He cupped a hand around one ear. “What? I can’t hear you over the noise of all this love! Would you rather be the girl no one remembers?”

“No, for fuck’s sake!”

He smiled. “Alright then. So now get your arse out there and win!”

The two of them looked at the closed metal door, then down at the floor, then back at each other. A moment passed.

Tom sighed. “Nice pep talk though, wasn’t it? I maybe peaked too soon.”

Zoe glared at him. She was ready to spit.

Overhead, the crowd’s stamping was incessant. Plaster dust fell continually now.

She fixed her eyes on the door. “Why don’t they come? We’ve been down here for ever.”

“Maybe this is our personal hell. Maybe they never come, and the crowd just gets louder and louder, and we’re left alone for eternity with our thoughts.”

“Don’t even joke, okay? I feel guilty enough.”

Tom looked at her carefully. “Because of Kate?”

Zoe was surprised at the relief she felt when Tom said Kate’s name. Underneath all the last-minute details of her preparation—the tightening of shoe cleats, the polishing of visors—she hadn’t realized how much it had been eating her.

“She should be here,” she said. “It should be me and her in this final.”

Her coach squeezed her knee. “Good girl. But you didn’t force Kate to stay at home. She made her own choices.”

“Still…”

“I want you to say it, Zoe. I want to hear you say Kate made her own choices.”

Zoe stared at the floor for a long time. The roar of the crowd accelerated every torpid molecule of the air in the little unfinished room. The vibration of their stamping feet rose through the steel frame of the bench and shimmied the white plastic seat beneath her.

Slowly, she raised her eyes to her coach’s.

“Kate made her choices,” she said softly. “And so did I.”

Tom held her gaze.

“Good,” he said finally. “And now put it out of your mind. Okay? That there is life; this here is sport. You only need to think about the next ten minutes.”

She swallowed. “Alright.”

He laughed. “Well then, don’t look so terrified.”

“Listen to that noise. I am terrified.”

“Look, Zoe. You’ve done all the hard work. You’ve made it to the final. Your worst-case scenario here is to be the second-fastest rider on the entire planet. The very worst thing that could happen in the next ten minutes is that you win an Olympic silver medal.”

“Exactly.”

“You’re scared of getting silver?”

She thought about it, then nodded. “I’d rather fucking die.”

“Honestly?”

“Honestly.”

She took a long, deep breath, and the trembling in her body subsided.

When she looked back at Tom, he was smiling.

“What?” said Zoe.

“Young lady, I believe you’re finally ready for your first Olympic final. Now do us both a favor, and go up there and win it.”

“But the door…”

Tom grinned. “Was only ever in your mind.”

She stood up and pushed on the metal door with two fingers, tentatively. It swung open easily, on oiled hinges, and the roar of the crowd swelled louder. The door banged against its stop and rang with the deep note of a bell.

She stared at him, wide-eyed.

“What?” said Tom, shooing her away. “Go on. You’re really bloody late, as it happens.”

Zoe looked back at the open door and then at him.

“You’re actually pretty good,” she said.

“Get to my age, you’d better be.”

The tall, whitewashed stairwell leading up to the track was silvered with sunshine falling from the high skylights in the velodrome roof. On the wide white riser of the very last step, in blue stenciled letters that were nearly straight, the Olympic motto read Citius, Altius, Fortius.

Zoe breathed a deep, slow lungful of the hot, roaring air. The hairs rose on the back of her neck. Everything that had passed was excused, gone, and forgotten. The crowd was screaming her name. She smiled, and breathed, and took the first step up into the light.

203 Barrington Street, Clayton, East Manchester


On a tiny TV in the cluttered living room of a two-bedroom terraced house, Kate Meadows watched her best friend emerge from the tunnel into the central arena of the velodrome. The crowd noise doubled, maxing out the TV’s speakers. Her heart surged. The baby’s bottle was balanced on the TV, and the howl of the crowd raised concentric waves in the milk. When Zoe lifted her arms to acknowledge the crowd’s support, the answering roar sent the bottle traveling across the top of the TV. It teetered on the edge, fell to the floor, and lay on its side, surrendering white formula from its translucent teat to the thirsty brown hessian of the carpet. Kate ignored it. She was transfixed by the image of Zoe.

Kate was twenty-four years old, and since the age of six, her dream had been to win gold in an Olympics. Her eighteen years of preparation had been perfect. She had reached the highest level in the sport. She had shared a coach with Zoe and trained with her and beaten her in the Nationals and the Worlds. And then, in the final year of preparation for Athens, baby Sophie had arrived.

This was an old TV and the picture quality was terrible, but it was quite clear to Kate that Zoe was now sitting on a twelve-thousand-dollar American prototype race bike with a matte black monocoque frame made from high-modulus unidirectional carbon fiber, while she herself was sitting on a Klippan sofa from Ikea, with pigmented epoxy/polyester powder-coated steel legs and a removable, machine-washable cover in Almås red. Kate was well aware that there were victories to which such a seat could be ridden, but they were small and domesticated triumphs, measured in infants weaned and potty-training campaigns prosecuted to dryness. She ground her knuckles into her temples, making herself remember how in love she was with Sophie and with Jack, who was in Athens preparing for his own race the next day. She tried to exorcise all jealous thoughts from her head—kneading her temples till they hurt—but God forgive her, her heart still ached to win gold.

Under the coffee table Sophie picked over the fallen mess of breakfast and lunch, cooing happily as she brought cornflakes and nonspecific mush to her mouth. The doctor had said she was too poorly to travel to Athens, but now the child seemed effervescent with health. You had to remind yourself that babies didn’t do these things deliberately. They didn’t use the kitchen calendar to trace out the precise schedule of your dreams with their chubby little fingers and then plan their asthma and their allergies to clash with it.

It was sweltering in the living room. The open window admitted no cooling breeze, only the oppressive August heat reflecting off the pale concrete of their yard. Kate felt sweat running down the small of her back. From next door, through the shared wall, she heard the neighbor vacuuming. The Hoover groaned and thumped its bald plastic head against the skirting board, again and again, a lifer despairing of parole. Crackling bands of electrical interference scrolled down the TV picture, masking Zoe’s face as she lined up to start the race.

The two riders were under starter’s orders now. A neutral voice counted down from ten. Up at the start line, behind the barrier, Kate caught a glimpse of Tom Voss in the group of IOC officials and VIPs. At the sight of her coach, her pulse quickened to prepare her system for the intense activity that his arrival always signaled. Adrenaline flooded her. When the countdown in the velodrome reached five, she watched Zoe’s hands tense on the handlebars. Her own hands tensed too, involuntarily, grabbing phantom bars in the stifling air of the living room. Her leg muscles twitched and her awareness sharpened, dilating every second. Kate hated the way her body still readied itself to race like this, hopelessly, the way a widow’s exhausted heart must still leap at a photo of her dead lover.

There was a commotion by her feet, and an excited squeal. She reached down to lift a small electric fan from the floor to the coffee table, out of the way of Sophie’s exploring fingers. Its breeze was a relief. On the TV, the starter’s countdown reached three. Kate watched Zoe lick her lips nervously. Two, said the starter. One. Sweat was beading on Kate’s forehead. She reached out and turned up the speed on the fan.

The picture contracted to a bright white dot in the center of the TV screen, then sparked out entirely. From next door the whine of the neighbor’s Hoover descended in pitch and faded through a long, diminishing sigh into silence. Through the wall she heard the neighbor say, “Shit.” Kate watched the blades of the fan relinquish their invisibility as they slowed to a stop. She looked at the fan dumbly, feeling the breeze on her face fade into stillness, wondering why a breeze would do such a thing at the exact same second the TV went on the blink. After a moment she understood that something had blown in the fuse box. As usual, it had taken half the street’s electricity down with it.

She felt a rare pulse of self-pity. Only these little things set her off. Missing the Olympics was too big and blunt to wound in anything but a dull and heavy sense. It was like being etherized and then smothered. But Jack’s plane tickets when they arrived had been sharp enough to cut. The packing of his send-ahead bag had left an ache, and a specific emptiness in the wardrobe that they shared. Now the electricity burning out had left her burned out too.

A second later she laughed at herself. After all, everything could be fixed. She looked in the kitchen drawer until she found fuse wire, then took a torch into the understairs toilet, where the fuse box was. Sophie screamed when she left the room, so she picked her up and held her under one arm while she juggled the torch and the fuse wire in her other hand, standing on the toilet seat to reach the fuse box. Sophie wriggled and squawked and kept trying to grab the wires. After a minute of trying, Kate decided she cared about not electrocuting her daughter more than she cared about watching Zoe race.

She put Sophie back down on the living room floor. Immediately the baby brightened up and resumed her endless quest for dangerous objects to put in her mouth. Fifteen hundred miles away the first of the best-of-three sprint rounds was over by now, and Zoe had either won or lost. It felt weird not to know. Kate clicked the TV on and off, as if some restorative element in the wiring of the house—some electronic white blood cell—might have healed the damage. No picture came. Instead she watched herself, ten pounds heavier than her racing weight, still in her nightie at three in the afternoon, leaning out of the reflection in the blank black TV screen.

She sighed. She could fix the problems with her reflection. Some hard miles of training would put the leanness back into her face, and her blond hair wouldn’t always be scraped back into a tight bunch to keep it clear of Sophie’s sticky grip, and her blue eyes were only hidden behind her ugly glasses because she just hadn’t found the strength to get dressed and go to the shops for the cleaning fluid for her contacts. All this could be sorted.

Even so, as she watched herself on TV, she panicked that Jack couldn’t possibly still find her attractive. It didn’t do to dwell on thoughts like that, so she slumped back down on the sofa and phoned him. Behind his voice when he picked up was the roar of five thousand people.

“Did you see that?” he shouted. “She killed it! She won like she wasn’t even trying!”

“Zoe did?”

“Yeah! This place is unbelievable. Don’t tell me you weren’t watching?”

“I couldn’t.”

She heard him hesitate. “Come on, Kate, don’t be bitter. It’ll be you racing next time, in Beijing.”

“No, I mean I actually couldn’t watch. The power’s gone out.”

“Did you check the fuses?”

“Gosh, Ken, my Barbie brain did not entertain that option.”

“Sorry.”

Kate sighed. “No, it’s okay. I tried to fix the fuse but Sophie wouldn’t let me.” Straightaway, she realized how sulky that sounded.

“Our daughter is pretty strong for her age,” said Jack, “but I still reckon you should be able to kick her arse in a straight fight.”

She laughed. “Look, I’m sorry. I’m just having a shitty time here.”

“I know. Thank you for looking after her. I miss you.”

Tears formed in her eyes. “Do you?”

“Oh my God,” he said, “are you kidding? If I had to choose between flying home to you and racing for gold here tomorrow, you know I’d be right back on that plane, don’t you?”

She sniffed, and wiped her eyes. “I’m not asking you to choose, idiot. I’m asking you to win.”

She heard his smile down the phone. “If I win, it’s only because I’m scared of what you’ll do to me if I don’t.”

“Come back home to me when you win gold, okay? Promise me you won’t stay out there with her.”

“Oh Christ,” he said. “You know you don’t even have to ask me that.”

“I know,” she said quietly. “I’m sorry.”

Through the phone connection, the noise of the crowd peaked again.

“The second race is starting,” Jack shouted over the roar. “I’ll call you back, okay?”

“You think she’ll win it?”

“Yeah, absolutely. She made round one look like a Sunday ride.”

“Jack?”

“Yeah?”

“I love you,” she said. “More than ice cream after training.”

“I love you too,” he said. “More than winning.”

She smiled. It was a perfect moment, and then she heard herself ruin it by saying, “Call me when the race is over, okay?”

She cringed at herself for being so needy, for putting this extra demand on him. Love wasn’t supposed to require the constant reassurance. But then again, love wasn’t supposed to sit watching its own reflection in a dead TV while temptation rode a blazing path to glory.

Whatever Jack said back to her, the crowd drowned it out by chanting Zoe’s name.

She clicked the call off and let the phone fall softly to the washable, hard-wearing cushion covers. It wasn’t just that she’d stopped believing she would ever get to the Olympics. Now, if she was really honest with herself, she wasn’t even sure if she could win the kind of races you rode on kitchen chairs and sofas.

She stared with glazed eyes through the window. In the shimmering heat of their little back yard, a squirrel had found something in the bottom of a crisp packet.

She thought, Is this my life now?

She held her hands to her temples, more gently now, and timed the pulse in them against the second hand of the living room clock. It had been months since she’d trained hard but even now—even with this stress—her heart rate was subsixty. The second hand was back where it started, and she’d only counted fifty-two. Sometimes this was the only small victory in her days: this knowledge that she was fitter than time.

She looked up and saw that Sophie was mimicking her, trying to press her own tiny hands against the sides of her head. Kate laughed, and for the very first time Sophie laughed back.

Kate brimmed with euphoria.

“Oh my God, darling, you laughed!”

She dropped to her knees, picked Sophie up, and hugged her. Sophie grinned—a gummy, prototype grin that faltered and twitched lopsidedly and then shone again. She gurgled noisily, delighted with herself.

“Oh, you clever little thing!”

Wait till I tell Jack, she thought, and the thought was so light and so simple that she suddenly knew everything would be okay. What did it matter if Zoe won gold today or if Jack won gold tomorrow? Kneeling here in the untidy living room, holding her baby close and breathing the warm curdled scent of her, it was impossible to believe that anything mattered more than this. Who even cared that she had until recently been able to bring a bicycle up to forty miles per hour in the velodrome? It seemed absurd, now that real life had begun for her—with its real progression through these lovely milestones of motherhood—that anyone even bothered to ride bicycles around endless oval tracks, or that anyone had had the odd idea of giving out gold to the one who could do it quickest. What good did it ever do anyone to ride themselves back to their point of origin?

God, she thought. I mean, where does that even get you?

After a minute, during which her heart beat forty-nine times, she smiled wearily.

“Oh, who am I kidding?” she said out loud, and Sophie looked up at the sound of her voice and produced an experimental expression, unique to her and perfectly equidistant between a laugh and a lament.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 56 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(38)

4 Star

(8)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 56 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 23, 2012

    Perfect timing for Olympic gold

    After having read Little Bee Chris Cleave has been a favorite. I eagerly awaited his latest Gold, and have not been disappointed.

    Gold follows two Olympic hopefuls. Now 32, Zoe and Kate met while training for track cycling when they were 19. According to their shared trainer, Tom, Kate was a born cyclist and the one to beat, but Zoe had drive and focus that had led her to numerous first place finishes. With the London Olympics just around the corner Zoe and Kate know that this will be their last chance for Olympic gold, but each are facing emotional hurdles that might sabotage their chances.

    All of the characters are so well written they pop off of the page, but it is Kate’s daughter, Sophie an eight year old Star Wars fanatic, battling a recurrence of leukemia like a true Jedi Knight, who is the true heart of the story. As she roots for her mother the reader can’t help but root for Sophie.

    I truly do think anyone but Chris Cleave could write a story that packs such an emotional wallop as this without having it turn into a melodramatic “Lifetime” movie.

    I loved Little Bea and now Gold. What next Mr. Cleave?

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2012

    Commitment to Sport. For people who have not had a personal comm

    Commitment to Sport. For people who have not had a personal commitment to sport this novel may seem uninteresting. The personal and physical toll was captured very well. There is always a choice, something is sacrificed and something is gained at every level when you chose your personal life over your sport. I felt that Chris Cleave portrayed this life very well. Thank you. I hope others will realize the commitment our olympic athletes make and support them in their endeavors.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2012

    Highly recommend

    I really enjoyed this book. I felt like it started a little slow but not enough to stop reading it and now I'm in the middle of the book and I can't stop reading it. It's well written with lots of twist and turns.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2013

    Badgerslash

    She leaves

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2013

    Snakefire

    Can you please hunt down deathstar he nearly killed me.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2013

    Canyonkit

    Pads in.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2013

    Leafcloud

    Okay.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2013

    Jade

    Name: Jade Windshill
    Gender: Female
    Age: 15
    Hair: Short and choppy, clearly cut herself. It is pitch black with gold braided into it. It is parted to the right, covering that half of her face.
    Eyes: Can be startling. One is neon green, flecked with gold, and shaped like a teardrop. The other is electric blue and almond-shaped.
    Height: 5' 7"
    Build: Willowy, flexible, longlegged, and slender.
    Skills: Basketball, archery, soccer, gymnastics, singing, reading, writing songs and books, surviving, music in general, etc..
    Personality: Meet her....
    Likes: Random stuff...
    Can be found at: Seven Gables result one
    Other: She has lived on her own for seven years

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2013

    Toris bio

    I have brown hair and brown eyes with big boobs and im avg height only wear mascara and im 20 yrs old and single

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2013

    The igly one

    Leave get the kits out of here or they will be kitnapped go go~the ugly one

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2013

    Great

    Lots of surprises and good characters

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2013

    Stormpaw

    Padded off sadly

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

    Thornpaw

    Its not your fault. Its ok.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2013

    Shadow

    He smiled. "What about you and that apprentice...whats his name?...Falconpaw?" He asked.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2013

    Goldpaw

    She shook her head. "I have to go...." she bolted back to camp

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2013

    Lilypaw

    *She smiles*

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2013

    Gatorfang

    Ok..he purrs...alright i almost have them..

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2013

    To willowreed

    Go back to camp

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2013

    TO ALL URGENT

    BLOODSPILL DID THE COMMENTS TO MOVE BLOODCLAN IS ATTACKING GO TO BLOODSPILLED RESULT ONE IF U DONT BELIEVE ME MOVE BACK NOW!!!!!! -Dragonkit

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2013

    Bennett

    Walks in and hands Talia a new volleyball. "Here. I saw Pierce pop your old one", he said.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 56 Customer Reviews

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