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Matt Seaton


Life from the saddle

Book review by Anthony Campbell. Copyright © Anthony Campbell (2002).

For some ten years Matt Seaton was a keen amateur racing cyclist. This book tells the story of his racing career: its beginning, its progress, and its end. The main focus is on the cycling but the narrative is counterpointed by Seaton's account of his marriage to a fellow university student, the birth of his twins following in vitro fertilization, and the tragic death of his wife from cancer. The tone of the book is thus doubly elegiac, a farewell both to his wife and to cycle racing. The two themes are closely intertwined.

Seaton is a fine writer and his descriptions of what it feels like to ride fast are often lyrical without being overstated. The book begins with a brilliant evocation of a training run on the North Downs in winter, and the reader is constantly made vividly aware of the different aspects of cycle racing: the excitement alternating with periods of boredom, the risks and spills, and above all the relentless drive to push oneself to the limit in the quest for fitness. Seaton is particularly good on the arcane demands of racing etiquette—the unwritten rules which, as a beginner, he occasionally infringed.

The book will interest racing cyclists of all kinds and also cycle tourists who wonder what it feels like to race. However, there is more to it than just an account of race technique and training; Seaton shows us how his experience of these things affected him emotionally and he thus gives us autobiography as much as, or even more than, sports writing. The book has considerable psychological insight and depth and should appeal even to readers with only a passing interest in cycling. Its subtheme is the ending of youth and the beginning of middle age, presented with finesse and considerable poignancy.

%T The Escape Artist
%S Life from the saddle
%A Matt Seaton
%I Fourth Estate
%C London
%D 2002
%G ISBN 1-84115-103-3
%P 186 pp
%K autobiography, cycling

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