Zoe raised her coffee cup. “Drink to it?”
Kate smiled at Zoe’s bedraggled hair and her hopeful expression. For the first time, she realized that Zoe might be okay.
“Not with coffee,” she said. “Let’s have a glass of wine.”
Zoe looked panicked. “Wine?”
Kate nodded. “French people make it from grapes. It comes in red or white.
Zoe frowned, trying the feel of the word in her mouth. “Wine…”
“Oh come on, said Kate. “It’s off-season. Live a little.”
This above conversation between Kate and Zoe (page 172) takes place at a pub early on in their relationship, when they are just starting to become friends. It’s also, as I can remember, one of the first times (chronologically) we see any of the athletes deal with alcohol.
Here Zoe is literally panicked, while Kate is the bold, calm, and experienced one. Later once (subtle spoiler alert) the rule change is announced, Zoe drinks half a bottle to feel brave enough to think about what the change meant (188).
I guess, as with last week, I’m interested in what happens when extremely disciplined athletes indulge in normal-people pleasures— both scientifically and psychologically. Last week it was sex, this week booze. With booze it seems Zoe is immature for her years: first panicked at the thought of “breaking the rules,” even during the off-season, and when Kate’s initiating, and later drinking to escape a stressful situation.
While reading Gold should we see the consumption of alcohol (or other drugs for that matter, if it comes up [honestly I haven’t gone past 200]) by an athlete as a warning siren of desperation and/or emotional stress, at least more so than we do in real life or even in other works of fiction? If so I think Cleave has set up a handy literary trick for telling his readers when he characters are experiencing intense emotion but never having to steer far from reality (booze is commonplace, especially in Britain). — Sam Schlinkert