“GOLD” by Chris Cleave – Oct 2016


Thirteen members were present at this month’s meeting with apologies received from several members unable to attend together with their comments on the book to be added to the discussion pot.

We opened the meeting by asking members what they felt about the book and it was quite a mixed reaction although on the whole most found the book a fairly easy read, and well-written and researched with some even mentioning that for the author to be male surprised them to some extent as the writing style captured the emotions and vulnerability of certain characters so well.

Several members said that it took a while to get into and a few felt irritated and even miffed with the general feel of the novel and the credibility of some of the characters, especially the relationship and dynamics between the two main characters Zoe and Kate. Most of the members present found this unrealistic and could not understand how they remained friends throughout.

Feelings were fairly split on the “nitty gritty” details of the sport with some finding it a little boring to read these details feeling they were sometimes in a bit of a sport bubble and wanted to get on with the story, and others saying how much they enjoyed getting swept up in the competitiveness of the tactics of the sport, more so as having got “hooked”, they could relate more to everything cycling in the Velodrome after watching the “real” Olympics on television and in 2012 in London itself.  Most also agreed the author’s research was very professional.

The storyline of Sophie – the sick child – everyone felt was quite realistic in its writing but again several members did not enjoy the “Star Wars” references set in Sophie’s fantasy world of thoughts but others argued that they felt this was how an eight year old dealt with a  long term illness – her way of not wanting to see her parents upset and in a way protecting them.  Some thought she would not actually survive.

No one saw the revelation coming of Zoe being her birth mother and again an interesting and in depth discussion followed about this and Zoe’s reaction to the death of her own brother and the effects and difficulty posed in getting close to anyone, as well as her vulnerability and need of protection and feeling she had to have accolades – gold medals – as she felt there was not enough in her own life.  Everyone also thought that she was going to admit to being Sophie’s mother too.

Most liked characters were Kate (although a little too good to be true at times!) and Jack (driven and competitive). Zoe was the most disliked character but most could see why and the funniest moment was the bathroom scene with Kate and Zoe’s trainer Tom – although a little like the Comedy/Tragedy Mask –  being poignant in the face of adversity but comedic in its portrayal.

The ending was felt by most to be shallow and very disappointing and extremely unbelievable set just three years later, and to quote one of our members “when the child survives the ordeal, she is stuck on a bike to try and win a medal, a clone of her family, a pawn for them to play with, to win more golds”.

In summing up, reactions to this novel proved to be fairly split  with some members present agreeing that it was a well researched, easy read and enjoyable book and with others saying not as enjoyable for them, so in this instance “all that glitters is not always “GOLD” perhaps!!”