Reading The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society (Transita) is a rare treat. It is a joyous celebration of the ageing process as a liberating experience, with a cast of engaging, eclectic and eccentric characters. It isn’t always entirely believable: there is a series of remarkable co-incidences which, should one analyse it too closely, makes the plot incredible. But if you are the sort of reader who can just go with the flow and enter into a world that isn’t quite the one we think we know, curl up with Christine Coleman’s novel and you’re in for a real treat. (As an aside, I would recommend that you start reading early in the evening, otherwise you will find yourself propping your eyes open in the wee small hours as, on top of its other qualities, The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society is quite unputtdownable: the story motors along with such verve and vitality that leaving Agnes, or Jack, or Felix, in the midst of their latest drama would seem like treachery.)
Agnes, seventy-five next Tuesday, gathers all her courage together to overcome her fear of heights and flee from the care home in which her loving but unthinking and repressed son, Jack, has placed her. She sets off in search of her grandchildren with whom she has lost contact following the break-up of Jack’s marriage. Through a series of bizarre and hilarious encounters with good people who have all lost their way somehow, Agnes not only casts aside the shackles imposed by society on the elderly but also her own fears: she learns to live life and to love doing so.
There are elements here that reminded me of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, not least the unusually satisfying and life-affirming denial of being old and the side-splitting wit with which subjects such as death and emotional betrayal are handled. But where A Short History fails, The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society succeeds with style and aplomb. The story is not artificially weighted down with pop psychology nor overlaid with memories of political conflict. It is simply what it is: a witty depiction of the third age, full of hope, full of vitality and brimming over at the edges with humanity.
Read and reviewed in 2007.
© Jessica Mulley 2007, 2014