Matt Seaton’s critically acclaimed memoir The Escape Artist is about his obsession for cycling and how that obsession was tamed.
For a time there were four bikes in Matt Seaton’s life.
His evenings were spent ‘doing the miles’ on the roads out of south London and into the hills of the North Downs and Kent Weald.
Weekends were taken up with track meets, time trials and road races — rides that took him from cold village halls at dawn and onto the empty bypasses of southern England.
With its rituals, its code of honour and its comradeship, cycling became a passion that bordered on possession.
It was at once a world apart, private to its initiates and, through the races he rode in Belgium, Mallorca and Ireland, a passport to an international fraternity. Anyone who’s been a member of a cycling club will read this and smile to themselves – we’ve all experienced this passion, and we’ll recognise it in Matt’s writings too.
But then marriage, children and his wife’s illness forced a reckoning with real life and, ultimately, a reappraisal of why cycling had become so compelling in the first place.
Today, those bikes are scattered, sold, or gathering dust in an attic.
Wry, frank and elegiac, ‘The Escape Artist’ is a celebration of an amateur sport and the simple beauty of cycling. It is also a story about the passage from youth to adulthood, about what it means to give up something fiercely loved in return for a kind of wisdom.
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