I remember watching the London Olympics and thinking what must be going through these cyclists' minds - how do they prepare themselves to be such high class performers. Surely there must be interesting stories behind it. This book satisfied my curiosity.
I first heard of Cleave when I received his latest book for review. It was a wartime novel but his writing style was really striking. I was keen to find out what else he had written and I saw this book. The story had the same compelling narrative and banter that characterised his other novel.
But I liked this more, maybe because it was in the now and the events were something I had heard about and read in the media.
Zoe Castle and Kate Argyll are two world class cyclists keen to make their mark on the cycling track. Best of friends, rivals, their relationship has its set of ups and downs until they reach the crucial point in their careers - London Olympics. Will they surmount their personal obstacles to achieve their dream? The story tells us all about it and much more.
- Cleave gets into the psyche of a world class athlete so well. How they prepare themselves physically, psychologically - it truly gives the reader an insight.
- The narrative. Cleave has a very unusual way of narrating a story. It moves back and forth in time, how the athletes first came to the programme as amateurs and then 10 years later when they are at the peak of their careers, looking for that photo finish that the world will remember them for.
- The central characters of Zoe and Kate are beautifully presented. The conventional Kate and the radical Zoe are beautifully etched out. Also the subplot of Sophie is so heart rendering.
- I found Cleave's writing style striking yet not when I first started reading him. I recall being put off with his dry way of narrating events. But the style grows on you. As the story picked up pace, racing to the pivotal scene, the style is actually why the story sounds so good.
A great read about athletes' lives and the sacrifices they make to stand on the podium. But what I also liked was the holistic experience of it. After the story ended, my copy had an author's note that explained his research into the athletes' lives and into children afflicted by life threatening diseases. There is also a diary about his cycling tryst on a cold morning that allows him the feel of what it is to cycle down the lane.
For me the note and the diary, were valuable add ons, providing a well rounded feel of how the story took root. Cleave does that with his latest novel, Everyone Brave is Forgiven. That is the kind of thing that really clicks for me - when the author shares his vision with the reader. Priceless.