Magazine article The Spectator

Not Grinning but Scowling

Magazine article The Spectator

Not Grinning but Scowling

Article excerpt

Gold by Chris Cleeve Sceptre, £16.99, pp. 366, ISBN 9780340963432 I am deeply envious of Chris Cleeve, so maybe everything that follows should be taken with a pinch of salt. This is a guy whose first novel won the Somerset Maugham Award and whose second nestled snugly in the New York Times bestseller list for over a year. 'Stunning, ' said the International Herald Tribune. 'Stunning, ' said Newsweek.

'Stunning, ' said Bookmarks Magazine. From the dust jacket of his latest, the author's wry, clever, benevolent features (I just wish I were as nice as him) radiate calm: relax, they seem to say. I'm going to take you on a journey. All of which can only leave you thinking: wow. And: boy, this better be good.

Gold (and we're off) takes us into the lives of three Olympic-standard sprint cyclists: Jack, Kate and Zoe. Jack and Kate are a couple, but Jack slept with Zoe (half-bitch, half-angel) during a break, and Zoe gave birth to Sophie, who has leukaemia.

Then there's Tom, the wise and wizened coach, with something sad in his past.

All the characters have something sad in their past, because how else could we care about them? But wait. They're all also brave as hell and have a nice line in cute dialogue.

They're sensitive, too. 'Shit, Zo. I'm sorry, ' says Kate after a barbed remark. 'No, no, you're right, ' Zoe replies. 'I was out of order.' Does anyone talk like this, unless they've grown up on a fatty diet of self-help books, or novelists like Chris Cleave? …

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