Friendship, true friendship, is a funny thing. Those outside a friendship often wonder what it is about two so seemingly different people that binds them to each other for years, decades, or even a lifetime. Sometimes, such as in the case of Kate and Zoe, the friends share one burning passion that no one else "gets" the way that they get it - individually and together. But even then (perhaps, especially then), how the friendship survives for so long remains a mystery.
Kate and Zoe, who met when they were both nineteen, are stars in the world of track cycling. They are so good that, over the course of three Olympic competitions, they are Britain's best chance at Olympic gold. Of the two, Kate has the most natural talent and ability in the sport. Zoe, however, has a level of drive and determination that makes her every bit Kate's equal on the track. Head-to-head competition between the pair more often than not ends with Zoe reaching the finish line slightly ahead of Kate.
As the 2012 Olympics approach, Zoe has become Britain's darling of the track cycling world. She has turned her good looks into a lucrative advertising contract, and her pretty face appears on giant billboards all over the country. Now 32 years old, she and Kate are still competitors, training partners, and despite the odds, friends. But things are not necessarily what they seem. Their story complicated by the intimate history they share, and their friendship is about to be tested in ways neither girl can control.
Author Chris Cleave, in a series of flashbacks, reveals, bit by bit, the shared past that explains how (and, more importantly, why) the obsessed Zoe and the self-sacrificing Kate have managed to remain "friends" for more than a decade. Theirs is a friendship even the coach they have shared for twelve years, a man who knows the girls as well as anyone can ever know another, finds difficult to understand.
Gold may be anchored by the relationship of the Kate and Zoe characters but the novel's wonderful supporting characters transform it into a truly memorable piece of writing. In addition to their passion for track cycling, Kate and Zoe share a few other things: a coach who sometimes struggles to maintain his objectivity, a man (and fellow racer) who is the key romantic relationship in both their lives, and a little girl who loves them both. Each will help determine whom Kate and Zoe will be when all the competition is finally over - if it ever is - and if they survive the process.
Bottom Line: Gold will appeal to those who enjoy "literary novels" as well as to readers interested in competitive cycling and sports training. It is a well-written novel about a rather unusual topic.