GOLD

Chris Cleaves

Zoe, Kate, and Jack met when they were nineteen and recruited to compete for the elite British Cycling team. In this sport, time is their greatest rival—a fraction of a second could mean the difference between going home with the win, and just going home.

Fast-forward thirteen years and Zoe—a two-time Olympic Gold medalist—has enjoyed the most success in her career out of the three, but at the cost of nearly every personal relationship in her life. Kate has sacrificed two Olympic games to raise her daughter, Sophie—an eight-year-old with leukemia who escapes her illness with dreams of the Death Star and of battling alongside Han Solo.

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Zoe, Kate, and Jack met when they were nineteen and recruited to compete for the elite British Cycling team. In this sport, time is their greatest rival—a fraction of a second could mean the difference between going home with the win, and just going home.

Fast-forward thirteen years and Zoe—a two-time Olympic Gold medalist—has enjoyed the most success in her career out of the three, but at the cost of nearly every personal relationship in her life. Kate has sacrificed two Olympic games to raise her daughter, Sophie—an eight-year-old with leukemia who escapes her illness with dreams of the Death Star and of battling alongside Han Solo. And Jack has fought valiantly to balance his career with being an attentive father to Sophie and a committed husband to Kate. As the three athletes start training for the London Summer Games, Sophie’s condition worsens and the stakes rise: both women will be tested to their physical and emotional limits. They must ask themselves the question: What would you sacrifice for the people you love, if it meant giving up the thing that was most important to you in the world?

Echoing the adrenaline-fueled rush of a race around the Velodrome track, Gold is a pulse-pounding examination of the choices we make when lives are at stake and when victory is on the line.

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  • Simon & Schuster
  • Hardcover
  • July 2012
  • 336 Pages
  • 9781451672725

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About Chris Cleaves

Chris Cleave was born in London and spent his early years in Cameroon. He studied Experimental Psychology at Balliol College, Oxford. His debut novel, Incendiary, won a 2006 Somerset Maugham Award, was shortlisted for the 2006 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and is now a feature film. His second novel, Little Bee, is an international bestseller with over 2 million copies in print. He lives in London with his wife and three children.

Praise

“Cleave’s latest novel demonstrates the determination of three extraordinary athletes in a story about true sacrifice. . . . [Their lives are] so intertwined, so complex, that the outcome is sure to be a surprise. 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.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“After the enormous popular success of his second novel, Little Bee, 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. . . . [Kate’s] little girl Sophie is the novel’s real heart. Cleave has a gift for portraying difficult children who pull every heartstring. . . . [He] knows how to captivate with rich characters and nimble plotting.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Cleave goes for the gold and brings it home in his thrillingly written and emotionally rewarding novel about the world of professional cycling. . . . 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 . . . 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 breathless . . . From start to finish, this is a truly Olympic-level literary achievement.”Publishers Weekly (boxed starred review)

"Cleave again displays a remarkable aptitude for rendering female characters with startling realism, one of the strengths of his previous novels (particularly 2009’s Little Bee). He conjures Sophie’s traumatized yet resilient young mind as deftly as he does the complex interior narratives of high-strung Zoe and the more philosophical Kate. . . . In these breathless portrayals of sport and spirit, Gold illuminates the stories of courage, loss, and commitment that are behind each of the seemingly invincible Olympians we root for every four years.”—ELLE Magazine

Discussion Questions

Chris Cleave was born in London and spent his early years in Cameroon. He studied Experimental Psychology at Balliol College, Oxford. His debut novel, Incendiary, won a 2006 Somerset Maugham Award, was shortlisted for the 2006 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and is now a feature film. His second novel, Little Bee, is an international bestseller with over 2 million copies in print. He lives in London with his wife and t1. Discuss the opening scene of Gold where Kate and baby Sophie are watching Zoe win the gold at the 2004 Olympics. What did you learn about Kate’s personality as a wife, mother, and athlete in this one scene? How does this scene set the stage for the rest of the novel?

According to Sophie, “You could play boys’ games like Star Wars that had fighting and spaceships and made you look tough, even if you weren’t tough enough to ride a bike.” Consider Sophie’s obsession with Star Wars. What attracts her to these movies? What does she have to prove by playing “tough” boys’ games?

Consider Tom’s first impressions of his two star athletes: “Bit by bit, race by race, year by year, a girl like Zoe would stay afloat in the sport while Kate slowly sank under the weight of real life. Tom had seen it a hundred times.” How well does Tom predict their career successes and failures? In what ways does he underestimate Kate?

When Tom watches his group of teen recruits, he notices “Kate’s latent strength, and Zoe’s perfect flow, and Jack’s incandescent energy.” Compare Kate, Zoe, and Jack’s athletic strengths to their personalities. How do Kate’s strength, Zoe’s flow, and Jack’s energy help them face everyday life off the track?

Compare how Zoe and Kate handle the costs and benefits of being Olympic athletes. How does the press treat each of them? How do Zoe and Kate handle the media attention? What could they learn from the other about fame?

Discuss Zoe and Kate’s competition for Jack’s attention. Why does Zoe pursue Jack when he is in the hospital? Do you think it was just another opportunity to compete? Were you surprised by Jack and Zoe’s relationships?

If you were in Kate’s situation, would you forgive Jack for his affair with Zoe? Would you be able to raise Sophie as your own, knowing about the affair? Explain your answer.

Zoe realizes, “It was ordinary days now that frightened her—the endless Tuesday mornings and Wednesday afternoons of real life, the days you had to steer through without the benefit of handlebars.” How does Zoe handle real life? What is she afraid will happen to her when her racing career is over?

Discuss the lasting impact of Adam’s death on Zoe. Why hasn’t she forgiven herself for her brother’s accident? How does she punish herself? How does she finally come to terms with his death?

When Jack decides to let Kate race Zoe without knowing that Sophie is in the hospital, “He smiled because he had given her something rarer than gold: an hour outside time.” Did you agree with his decision? In what ways have these characters been racing against time their entire life?

During their final race, Zoe waits for Kate after Kate crashes on the track. How is that decision out of character for Zoe? Would you expect Kate to do the same for Zoe, if the situation were reversed? Why or why not?

At the end of the novel, Zoe’s role is as Sophie’s coach, not her mother. What kind of coach do you imagine Zoe to be? What kind of mother do you think she would have been to Sophie? Do you think she could have handled Sophie’s illness?

After winning gold in Athens, Zoe realizes, “Gold came out of the ground, and she had felt the weight of it dragging her back down there.” What does “gold” mean to Zoe, Kate, Jack, and Tom? What other types of gold (besides Olympic medals) do each of these characters strive for? Do they achieve it?