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Book Club Discussion Questions - Gold By Chris Cleave

Gold

By Chris Cleave

PBR Book Review:

It takes a certain mindset to win Olympic gold. There’s a level of dedication and sacrifice necessary that does not come easily to the average person. Timed to coincide with the London summer Olympics this book gives us an amazing look at the world of Olympic level competitive cycling. The story follows two friends who share the dream of winning Gold in the Olympics. Cleave realistically shows the training and commitment needed to compete. He portrays the two Olympic hopefuls as very human and complicates things by adding some family drama to the mix. This is an easy read that holds your interest. It does require a slight suspension of belief at times and the ending feels contrived. This aside, I recommend for those that enjoy a good story with believable characters.

Book Club Talking Points:

This book is about two friends training for the Olympics, but the story is about much more than what it takes to win gold. It’s about relationships and life’s priorities and abounds with the dynamics of family, friendship, love and rivalry. The characters are complex, human and totally believable. Slightly melodramatic but still a good read.

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*Author Website: http://www.chriscleave.com//

*Other Books by Same Author: "Little Bee", "Incendiary".

*Discussion Questions



1. 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?

2. 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?

3. 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?

4. 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?

5. 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?

6. 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?

7. 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.

8. 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?

9. 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?

10. 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?

11. 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?

12. 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?

13. 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?

Book Summary
Simon & Schuster - July 3, 2012 – 336 pages - ISBN-10: 1451672721
What would you sacrifice for the people you love?

KATE AND ZOE met at nineteen when they both made the cut for the national training program in track cycling—a sport that demands intense focus, blinding exertion, and unwavering commitment. They are built to exploit the barest physical and psychological edge over equally skilled rivals, all of whom are fighting for the last one tenth of a second that separates triumph from despair.

Now at thirty-two, the women are facing their last and biggest race: the 2012 Olympics. Each wants desperately to win gold, and each has more than a medal to lose.

Kate is the more naturally gifted, but the demands of her life have a tendency to slow her down. Her eight-year-old daughter Sophie dreams of the Death Star and of battling alongside the Rebels as evil white blood cells ravage her personal galaxy—she is fighting a recurrence of the leukemia that nearly killed her three years ago. Sophie doesn’t want to stand in the way of her mum’s Olympic dreams, but each day the dark forces of the universe seem to be massing against her.

Devoted and self-sacrificing Kate knows her daughter is fragile, but at the height of her last frenzied months of training, might she be blind to the most terrible prognosis?

Intense, aloof Zoe has always hovered on the periphery of real human companionship, and her compulsive need to win at any cost has more than once threatened her friendship with Kate—and her own sanity. Will she allow her obsession, and the advantage she has over a harried, anguished mother, to sever the bond they have shared for more than a decade?

Echoing the adrenaline-fueled rush of a race around the Velodrome track, Gold is a triumph of superbly paced, heart-in-throat storytelling. With great humanity and glorious prose, Chris Cleave examines the values that lie at the heart of our most intimate relationships, and the choices we make when lives are at stake and everything is on the line.

 
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