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…
Thank you to the author, Kathleen Jowitt, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I have to admit that I don’t know anything about cycling, but I was intrigued after reading an extract of this book. Whilst the main characters share an interest in cycling, a knowledge of the sport is not necessary.
A Spoke in the Wheel is a character driven novel set in the UK. The three main characters are Ben, Polly and Vicki who are very different from each other and unified by cycling. The novel is narrated by Ben, a disgraced professional cyclist who is trying to make a fresh start in life after his doping past. He develops an unexpected friendship with his new housemates, Polly and Vicki.
Ben’s voice came across really well as he was able to tell his story in the first person. It also created a more intimate feel for his character. At the start of the book, I realised that, like Polly, I had made an unconscious assumption about Ben because he was a doper. Ben’s history as a professional cyclist is quite nuanced, however. The more I learnt about Ben and his thoughts and feelings, the more I warmed to him. Sometimes he speaks without thinking and acts on impulse, but deep down he’s a decent guy.
Polly and Vicki have been best friends since university. They are both cycling fans and their lives intertwine with that of Ben after the three become housemates. It was lovely reading about the friendships that this trio build together. All of them learn something valuable from each other and they have great character growth.
I appreciated the diversity in the novel and there is a range of representation, including disability, mental health, and LGBTQIA. Polly has a chronic illness and she is a wheelchair user. She is not afraid to speak her mind and I liked her no-nonsense attitude. Her best friend Vicki is a cycling enthusiast and workaholic who has stuck by Polly through everything.
This book explores the preconceptions we have of other people, whether they are disabled, a different sexual orientation, or a disgraced athlete. Polly and Ben learn to overcome their prejudices against each other as they get to know one another. I didn’t find it preachy; instead it’s an eye-opening read and includes some humorous moments.
An insightful book about redemption and friendship. A Spoke in the Wheel is a believable story with diverse and realistic characters.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐