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5 Olympic-themed Books

As the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio kick off, here are five novels that use the Olympic Games as a starting point for spinning a yarn. While running seems to be the preferred sport to write about, Chris Cleave's Gold recounts extreme illness and extreme health with the Olympics as a backdrop. Or, for romantics, there's a love story that takes place during the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Gold

The extraordinary third novel from Chris Cleave, author of the internationally bestselling, Costa-shortlisted THE OTHER HAND. Kate and Zoe are friends but also ardent rivals - athletes at the top of their game, fighting to compete in the world's greatest sporting contest. Each scarred by tragedy, and each with a great deal to lose, they must choose between family and glory and ask themselves: what will I sacrifice? GOLD captures the extraordinary effort and dedication that go into the pursuit of victory. But this life-affirming novel is about more than sport. It is about human endurance, motherhood and love, and what enables us all, in our different ways, to achieve the remarkable. It is a story told as only Chris Cleave could tell it. And once you begin, it will be a heart-pounding race to the finish.

Again to Carthage

Again to Carthageis the "breath taking, pulse-quickening, stunning "sequel to Once a Runnerthat "will have you standing up and cheering, and pulling on your running shoes" (Chicago Sun-Times). Originally self-published in 1978, Once a Runnerbecame a cult classic, emerging after three decades to become a New York Times bestseller. Now, in Again to Carthage, hero Quenton Cassidy returns. The former Olympian has become a successful attorney in south Florida, where his life centers on work, friends, skin diving, and boating trips to the Bahamas. But when he loses his best friend to the Vietnam War and two relatives to life's vicissitudes, Cassidy realizes that an important part of his life was left unfinished. After reconnecting with his friend and former coach Bruce Denton, Cassidy returns to the world of competitive running in a desperate, all-out attempt to make one last Olympic team. Perfectly capturing the intensity, relentlessness, and occasional lunacy of a serious runner's life, Again to Carthage is a must-read for runners-and athletes-of all ages, and a novel that will thrill any lover of fiction.

The Juliet Stories

'a coming-of-age tale about the painful and wonderful experiences of motherhood... a compelling novel told in the most beautifully crafted way, and the frequent lapse into disjointed stream of consciousness renders the style close to that of Eimear McBride's A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. It is a wonderful rarity when a book leaves you so profoundly affected' - We Love This Book Juliet Friesen is ten years old when her family moves to Nicaragua. It is 1984, the height of Nicaragua's post-revolutionary war, and the peace-activist Friesens have come to protest American involvement. In the midst of this tumult, Juliet's family lives outside of the boundaries of ordinary life. They've escaped, and the ordinary rules don't apply. Threat is pervasive, danger is real, but the extremity of the situation also produces a kind of euphoria, protecting Juliet's family from its own cracks and conflicts. When Juliet's younger brother becomes sick with cancer, their adventure ends abruptly. The Friesens return to Canada only to find that their lives beyond Nicaragua have become the war zone. One by one, they drift from each other, and Juliet grows to adulthood, pulled between her desire to live a free life like the one she remembers in Nicaragua, and her desire to build for her own children a life more settled than her parents could provide. With laser-sharp prose and breathtaking insight, these stories herald Carrie Snyder as one of Canada's most prodigiously talented writers.

Running the Rift

Jean Patrick Nkuba dreams of becoming the first Rwandan to run in the Olympics. But Jean Patrick is a Tutsi and his kind are not supposed to win. When the president's assassination plummets the country into sudden and bloody chaos - Hutu against Tutsi, neighbour against neighbour - Jean Patrick is left without protection and without any choice. Now he must run: from his home, from his family, from the woman he loves. Finding them again will be the race of his life. Evoking the raw beauty of Rwanda and the tragedy of its recent past, Running the Rift is a truly stunning novel of a people's trauma, of lives lost, and of loves salvaged.

Olivia is a Paris-based journalist and editor.

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