Gold by Chris Cleave
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I don't read too many novels, so I'm not well-versed with current trends. I suspect Chris Cleave is fitting into the the trendy moment of current literature but not knowing what the trends are, I approached this book without expectation. And I found the structure exquisite, revealing information just like real life reveals information. Without drama, without fanfare but surprising and shocking nonetheless. The human psychology seemed real, too, as you end the book wondering why the heck those people acted that way and could live with the unconventional set-up without angst and turmoil. Just like real life.
When Zoe is nervous before a race, her coach tells her that, at her age, it shouldn't be the big event that scares her; it should be "...the lingering sensation that in pursuit of my own exacting goals and objectives I might not have been as generous in spirit as I could have been with regard to the needs and dreams of the people I cared most about or for whom I was emotionally responsible."
Zoe "seethes" at this wisdom and that sets the path for the whole book; these characters don't grow in ways that the reader sees progress though they are given opportunities to grow. Just like real life.
My biggest problem is that I didn't really like any of the characters; didn't understand their motivations, their patience with the selfish behavior of the other significant people in their lives or their choices. The way Cleave structured the book I wanted to know their stories but, once I did, I didn't care that I knew them. I don't know whether that's a failing of mine or a failing of the author's but, to me, Zoe was downright annoying, Kate too pure and one-dimensional, Tom a caricature, Jack undefined and listless. Young Sophie was the only one who resonated with me; her constructs to hide her illness because she didn't want to scare her parents were surprising in a world where attention seems to be something you grab at relentlessly.
Some lovely word combinations:
"...children were bottomless, echoing wells of need into which exhausted women...endlessly dropped brave little pebbles of certainty and anxiously listened for a splash that never came."
"...being friends with Zoe was like being knocked dizzy by grace."
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