Casual Reader – Green and gold, life and death

In this website’s previous guise, the book reviews came thick and fast. I don’t feel so compelled to do that here, and instead post all the reviews over on Goodreads. However, there are two books I’ve read recently that deserve a special mention. Vague spoilers throughout.

I remember hearing an interview with the author of Gold a long while ago and thought it sounded interesting, particularly as Olympics fever was gripping the nation. I didn’t get round to reading it until now, but the Winter Olympics were on as I did, so perhaps that can be my excuse!

I found this to be one of those books you just can’t put down. If you break it down, it’s just a love triangle drama but there’s so much more to it than that. Throw in the battle for Olympic supremacy, the fight against your own body for fitness and to limit the effects of aging, plus plenty to get you thinking about illness in childhood and the vast extremes of life and death.

At first, the writing felt stilted and it took a while to get used to the short, sharp sentences. But then it was clear that this was the world they were living in, these Olympic cyclists who just go at a higher pace than the rest of the world. The story was told in short bursts, diving back and forth in time, and it unravelled beautifully to a fitting conclusion. I really loved it.

I didn’t know an awful lot about the Green Mile before I started. I knew of the film without having seen it, and had a vague idea it was about a prison guard with a giant of a prisoner. The rest was a mystery – it wasn’t until I bought the book that I even realised it was written by Stephen King. Good start.

It grabbed me instantly, this horrifying tale of life (and death) in prison awaiting the electric chair. The serialised nature of the book meant we were flipping back and forth between the narrator adjusting to life in his retirement home and his time as the prison guard on “death row”. It’s violent and gruesome in places but none of it is out of place.

The story is sad, there are few uplifting passages. At the end I was left feeling exhausted and deflated, but not to the detriment of the tale. It had me hooked, engrossed in the story of this large man that could seemingly perform miracles, and I couldn’t wait to see how it all turned out. It wasn’t a happy ending but it was the right ending, and I thought it was a great read from start to finish.