There’s a line in Chris Cleave’s Gold in which Sophie, the 8-year-old daughter of Jack and Kate Argall, says that if she survives the leukemia ravaging her young body, she will have to survive her parents. This perfectly summarizes my feelings about all three main adult characters of Gold — survival. Jack and Kate, along with Kate’s best friend and main rival, Zoe Castle are elite athletes fighting for the chance to compete at the 2012 Olympics, their last chance at glory and redemption. On the path to London, they must confront the demons of the past and the uncertainty of the future.
Chris Cleave has a knack for creating moments of clarity, precision and beauty in his books. Where Gold failed for me was in the rendering of its characters. None of the adults roused a shred of sympathy in me. Zoe is caustic, competitive and cruel — regardless of the reasons for this, she fails to become a character worth caring for. Likewise, Jack is a mess, a fool who is unable to consider the consequences of his actions. And Kate, to whom the most pain is inflicted, doesn’t get off scot-free, either. Unfortunately, Cleave imbues her with all the characteristics of the literary Mary Sue. She is so put-upon and still so noble that she never quite connects as a real person.
I wanted to love this book. Gold is a quick read and not an altogether unenjoyable one. But it’s a month until the Olympics of this story, and I’m geared up for all the agony and the ecstasy that the Games will undoubtedly entail. Unfortunately, Gold fails to capture these feelings and leaves me wishing that Cleave had created something that captured all three goals of the Olympic motto. Not just faster, but Citius, Altius, Fortius.
(Previously posted on Goodreads.)