Zoe and Kate are friends.
Zoe and Kate are colleagues.
Zoe and Kate are rivals.
Both women are professional cyclists who have represented their country. Zoe has the advantage over Kate as she has been to an Olympics and won the coveted Gold Medal. There is the chance to get it probably for the last time in 2012, in a home Olympics.
This is a book which is very much of it’s time. The legacy of the 2012 games is still around, the drugs scandal of winners of the Tour de France still a point for topical discussion. It demonstrates very effectively the dedication, skill and sheer hard work in achieving something as a Gold Medal. It could be any sport, but the author has chosen cycling. My heart was pedalling as fast as these two women as they learn to train hard and play the game, the game to win. Their home lives are intertwined and it takes a fair way into the book to bring these two women even further together than just rivals on the race track.
However for me Chris Cleave does something very clever with these two characters; he makes you hate one and love the other. I felt for Kate, she made some rather difficult choices in life and had a lot she was trying to balance. Kate was a person who I would want to know. Zoe on the other hand got right under my skin. Her sheer arrogance left a lot to be desired and even when we learn more about her past and what made Zoe, Zoe I still felt nothing. The choices she made were not based on anything intuitive and emotional, they were based on one thing – to win and to win gold. Anything else would finish her.
The supporting characters of Jack, Kate’s husband also a professional cyclist drew on when two competing sports people are in the same arena and spotlight whilst trying to keep their feet firmly on the ground, the complete opposite to Zoe. Interestingly enough the description of their homes did exactly that; Jack and Kate a terraced house in a residential area of Manchester , Zoe the penthouse apartment in an area that says only one thing – money. Then there is Sophie, Jack and Kate’s daughter who has Leukaemia and is battling her illness, whilst trying to hide how she really is from her parents. It brought heart wrenching moments of her alone being ill and trying her best to hide it in a Star Wars toy. Tom the coach of Zoe, Kate and Jack keeps their wheels turning (pun intended) and not only supports them track side and their physical strength but their mental strength or lack of it, to achieve the best.
The author has weaved a tale, quite tight but I felt it was starting to fail slightly at the end. It was obvious where it was going to go, and I did not like that, I wanted the opposite to happen because I knew that some of these characters had the strength to survive away from cycling no matter what the outcome. The review has been challenging to write, it would be so easy to give away the whole plot. However, this is a great book and well worth a read.
This was not a book of choice, I picked it up because it was featured as one of Richard and Judy’s choices, and it was topical and I had seen it pop up in magazines, newspaper reviews etc. So it was going to make an ideal choice for my book club and it got a few thumbs up when I suggested it. If I was just choosing for me – a book which has been described by some just about cycling then I would not have picked it up. But I am glad I did, I learnt something with this book, I have respect for all these athletes that train as hard as they do in whatever sport they choose. They ironically I have far less for footballers. The strong bonds of motherhood and friendship are tested probably to their limits in this book and it does leave something behind in your memory as you finish it. I look forward to the discussion.
I will certainly look out for Chris Cleave’s other work as I am intrigued by his writing and would like to compare this novel with others.