Author: Chris Cleave
Publication: Sceptre (7 Jun 2012)
Summary: Kate and Zoe are professional cyclists. They are friends and rivals, on the track and off, and as this story unfolds we will learn just to what extent.
What I Think
Kate and Zoe are training for the 2012 London Olympics. This will be the last chance they have to compete as they are both in their early thirties and reaching retirement (from professional sport) age. They met young and have the same coach, Tom, who has worked tirelessly to ensure that these two women achieve the best out of their bodies. Kate and Zoe are friends, they are rivals. The book is about whether their biggest rivalry is on the track, racing against each other on their bikes, or off the track. Is it only about sport? Or is it about family? Love? Kate's husband Jack? Or their daughter Sophie?
Apart from a short prologue and epilogue this book takes place over just a few days (with several flashbacks, obviously). The attention to detail necessary to allow the whole story to unfold in this time span is phenomenal. And yet not one page, paragraph or sentence is boring.
Both female characters are complete with personality traits, flaws and irritations. Both are one hundred per cent credible and likable. I found myself rooting for both of them, stuck in the horrible position Tom (the coach) is in when he knows only one of them can win. The ending for me was enormously satisfying.
I don't know much about professional sports and even less about cycling. Assuming that Cleave has done his homework, I feel I know a lot more now. Another major element of the book was Sophie's illness. This was tough to read at times, but equally you want to know what is going to happen next. At the end of the novel Cleave pays tribute to the real athletes of the Olympics, "May their victories be remembered, and their characters celebrated, forever." and to The Great Ormond Street Hospital for allowing him to do research there. "Caring for sick children is the Olympics of parenting."
I would strongly urge anyone to read this thrilling and pacy, yet sensitive and heart-warming, book.
About the Author
Chris Cleave was born on 1st January 1973 in London. As well as a novelist, he is a columnist for The Guardian newspaper in England. Incendiary, his first novel, won the 2006 Somerset Maugham Award and was shortlisted for the 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize. His second novel, The Other Hand (UK title)/Little Bee (US title) (2008) was, among others, short-listed for the 2008 Costa Novel Award. His third novel, Gold was released in June 2012, to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics.
Chris Cleave lives in London with his wife and three children.