I am so excited to be part of the blog tour for A Spoke in the Wheel by Kathleen Jowitt. Kathleen was kind enough to take part in my All About Books feature back in March – and if you missed her interview you can check it our here.
Now I must admit that A Spoke in the Wheel is something far outside my normal choice of reads, (I am a fantasy sci-fi fan normally) but I was so intrigued and with the cycling element I knew my mum would love to have a read too.
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Title: A Spoke in the Wheel
Author: Kathleen Jowitt
Synopsis: The first thing I saw was the wheelchair.
The first thing she saw was the doper.
Ben Goddard is an embarrassment – as a cyclist, as an athlete, as a human being. And he knows it. Now that he’s been exposed by a positive drugs test, his race wins and his work with disabled children mean nothing. He quits professional cycling in a hurry, sticks a pin in a map, and sets out to build a new life in a town where nobody knows who he is or what he’s done. But when the first person he meets turns out to be a cycling fan, he finds out that it’s not going to be quite as easy as that.
Besides, Polly’s not just a cycling fan, she’s a former medical student with a chronic illness and strong opinions. Particularly when it comes to Ben Goddard…
Categories: Contemporary, LGBT, Sport, Cycling, Romance
Publication Date: 29th March 2018
Rating: 4.5 stars (rounded up to 5 on GR etc)
Review: Ok so… I do not read contemporary fiction, so this was a big change for me, and I will admitt it took me maybe 40-50 pages to get really into the story. But once I hit that point I sat and read the rest of the book that evening. I just loved it!
The novel is told from Ben’s point of view, a disgraced cyclist trying to build a new life. It follows his attempt to build his new life and the friendships he develops with Polly and Vicki his new housemates. I found Ben a really interesting character, his feelings about his previous life as a professional cyclist, the guilt and shame he feels for cheating and his attitude towards both himself and his new life made for a really relate-able narrator. I think we all know deep down that we are not perfect and we all have regrets and seeing Ben deal with the consequences of his bad decision was really quite something.
Polly and Vicki become Ben’s housemates early on in the book, and we get to know them as Ben’s friendships with them develop. Vicki is so open and lovely, though slowly wearing herself out working for a charity and Polly is chronically ill, grumpy, closed off and someone who I identify with so much. I have to say that Polly really made the novel for me, and the way in which she is written is so perfect. As a person who suffers with a chronic illness I could so relate to Polly and her experiences. It was so wonderful to see a disabled character written in the story and not have their narrative be there as a prop or so that they could be miraculously fixed. Instead Kathleen has created a wonderfully well developed character who highlighted both to Ben and the reader then challenge that every day life is for some.
The further I got in to the story, the more like-able I found Ben, he becomes a better person because of his relationships with Polly and Vicki. I feel like Polly and Vicki are the first true friends Ben has, and the teach him so much. Though it does take him a while to realise that he is a person worthy of their friendship. Ben is a good example of the toxicity of guilt and how sometimes we punish ourselves because we feel we deserve it (even, or rather, especially, when we don’t)
The story is really focused and the main trio are the focus, though there are several side characters. Gianna is a wonderful character and she becomes Vicki’s girlfriend, and later Ben’s friend too. I don’t want to say too much about their relationship due to spoilers, but I did want to point out, in my review that there is a lesbian relationship in the book as I think it’s so important. The book also touches on some of the issues that members of the LGBT+ community face from both their own family and strangers.
I guess I am so used to fantasy books that I found it so amazing to read a book that was so true to life, and that there was so much diversity among the characters. This diversity allowed the book to discuss such a wide range of issues, from disability to LGBT, and discrimination to mental health. I think my favourite scene in the whole book was when Polly writes Ben a note, giving him permission to do what is best for him. I really highlights the fact that so many of us are so hard on ourselves, so much harder than we are towards friends and family.
A Spoke in the Wheel is so well written that as well as truly loving Polly, Ben and Vicki, I also loathe several characters too. I won’t name names, because I don’t want to spoil it but I you will know how I mean when you get to those parts! These characters highlight the toxicity of ignorance and show how readily people despise that which they don’t understand.
The cycling background gave the book depth and my mum (who is an avid cyclist) loved the book so much and found the sports related parts and references really interesting! I read the book from a slightly different perspective and confess I was more interested Polly and her struggles..
My only niggle with the A Spoke in the Wheel was the length. I found myself wanting just that little bit more, as though the ending was a tad rushed. And found myself wishing for maybe a chapter or two more to really help finish the book off. Though this may just be because I am used to reading books with 600+ pages. The epilogue finishes everything off quite nicely and I love that it really does highlight that stories don’t need to have the happiest endings to be a happy ending!
A Spoke in the Wheel is a wonderful and engaging read. I think it would make the perfect holiday read (my mum can vouch for that as she took it with her to Menorca on her cycling holiday and enjoyed reading it immensely.) Personally, I feel that A Spoke in the Wheel is a must read, because it gives such a clear window in to the world of living with a chronic illness and the challenges sufferers face. Ben gains so much understanding through his friendship with Polly (or even just through that one trip in to town, to visit the bank and the library) and I think that if everyone give this a read, they would gain insight in to what life can be like. And maybe people who struggle with chronic illness and disability would be understood a little better and struggle a little less.
If you like the sound of A Spoke on the Wheel it is available in both eBook and paperback formats from Amazon*.
I received a copy of A Spoke in the Wheel for the purpose of this review, all opinions and words are my own (with the exception of the synopsis show above in italics.