Book Reviews

The Lido, by Libby Page

Meet Rosemary, 86, and Kate, 26: dreamers, campaigners, outdoor swimmers…

Rosemary has lived in Brixton all her life, but everything she knows is changing. Only the local lido, where she swims every day, remains a constant reminder of the past and her beloved husband George.

Kate has just moved and feels adrift in a city that is too big for her. She’s on the bottom rung of her career as a local journalist, and is determined to make something of it.

So when the lido is threatened with closure, Kate knows this story could be her chance to shine. But for Rosemary, it could be the end of everything. Together they are determined to make a stand, and to prove that the pool is more than just a place to swim – it is the heart of the community.

The Lido is an uplifting novel about the importance of friendship, the value of community, and how ordinary people can protect the things they love.

the lido

The Review

Ahh, I loved this book. The Lido is one of those stories that just warms you from the inside out. Telling the story of Rosemary and Kate, two unlikely friends born 6 decades apart; The Lido presents a tale where coming of age meets historic reflection. Page takes a lot of care to develop the two protagonists and their individual stories, developing likeable characters who I found myself really, emotionally invested in.

Rosemary, 86, has lived her whole life around the lido – from a child during the war, to a newly married young woman, through years of happiness and heartbreak with her much-loved and dearly departed husband, George. I found the descriptions of Rosemary and George throughout the book reminiscent of Up – the detail of her memories and their relationship, heart-warming and defiant to the end, had me in tears on more than one occasion. There is a beautiful scene in which Rosemary, in the midst of a Friday night in Brixton and surrounded by groups of young 20- and 30-somethings, walks into a trendy cocktail bar for a drink – those around her completely oblivious to the fact that, years earlier, the space had been George’s fruit and veg shop; the sign still on the wall. It is a poignantly humorous image.

In comparison to Rosemary’s defiant confidence, Kate’s inward shyness and anxiety paint an uneasy and lonely portrait of a young woman trying to find her way in a foreign, overwhelming and lonely city. The depiction and personification of Kate’s panic attacks, ‘the Panic’, can at times be quite disturbing, and really hits home how you really can never judge a book by its cover, and how those who may look calm and put together from the outside may in fact be suffering beneath the surface.

 

“You wouldn’t tell from looking at Kate that she is a young woman who is visited by the Panic. Only she knows that.”

 

Kate is struggling to fit into life in Brixton, where she knows no-one, and is living a grim life of microwave dinners in front of her laptop. Meeting Rosemary quite literally turns her life around, and combined with her regular swims at the lido we watch her turn into a completely different person – however; I must admit that I found some of new Kate’s actions a little OTT in comparison to her character earlier in the book.

 

One of the strongest themes in the book is community, and the buzz of Brixton hums from the pages. I loved the descriptions of the streets and shops, and the stories of other residents who have a connection to the lido, and by extension to Rosemary, and to Kate. I enjoyed the descriptions of swimming and being in the water – after a long, long hiatus; I’ve recently started swimming again (well, twice in a month which has to count right?) and it’s lovely to hear the passion that the author clearly has for the sport. I’ve since bought Leap In by Alexandra Heminsley (who also wrote Running Like A Girl, which I wholeheartedly recommend whether you run or not, it’s just a bloody good read!), and have spent the last half hour – possibly more – googling ‘UK lidos’.

 

“It is familiar,” says Rosemary, “it is special and it is familiar and nothing else would be the same”.

 

While it can be a little simplistic and ‘neat’ in places, overall The Lido is an enjoyable and uplifting story that’s definitely worth a read!

 

The Lido was published by Orion on 19th April 2018 – pick up a copy here.

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