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.
I was recently laid low in bed for a couple of days with a nasty infection. Dosed up on antibiotics and feeling thoroughly sorry for myself, I was in need of a serious pick-me-up and, denied my usual outlets of after-work jogging and killing zombies on my PS4, turned to Libby Page’s debut The Lido, which has been marketed as ‘the feel-good debut of the year’ and had been lingering on my Kindle for a while.
The novel centres around a lido in Brixton, London. With member numbers falling, the local council puts the lido under threat of closure and a luxury property company start circling, eager to turn the place into a private gym. This brings together 26 year old local news reporter Kate; recently arrived in London and feeling adrift in big city life, and long-term lido member and Brixton resident Rosemary; recently widowed after a long and happy marriage. As the two women’s friendship develops, the community of Brixton Lido is bought back to life – but will it be enough to save the lido from the developers?
As you can probably tell, this is a heart-warming and very feel-good read – it really was the perfect book to curl up with when I was feeling poorly! The main drive of the plot is the unlikely friendship between Kate and Rosemary – two fantastically well-realised characters. I really identified with Kate, adrift in a new city and struggling with anxiety whilst pretending to her nearest and dearest that she was loving her adult life and everything was fine. Following her through the novel, as she begins to make connections and identify a community of her own, is a joyful journey – as is watching Rosemary come out of her shell and live life for herself following the death of her beloved George.
Brixton also really comes alive as a place and community. Whether it’s an accurate portrayal or not I couldn’t say, having never visited the place myself, but it feels like a living place in the pages of The Lido – filled with a diverse cast of characters that did feel representative of the melting pot of London life. Colours, sights and sounds leapt off the page and there was a real sense of the vibrancy of city life. Rosemary’s memories of her childhood growing up in Brixton were also a nice touch – providing a sense of the changing nature of the city and the community, for both good and ill.
As you can probably guess from the blurb, this book is full to brimming with sugar – it’s supposed to be a heart-warming read after all – which does occasionally threaten to lurch over into full on ‘cake with icing and sprinkles on top’ saccharine. The ending in particular is so sweet that it could be in a Richard Curtis movie – in fact, this whole novel is a prime candidate to be a Richard Curtis movie. But what’s the harm in a book that wants to make you feel better about the world? Happy endings seem to have gone out of vogue but, in our turbulent times, it was nice to read a novel where friendship, self-fulfilment, and community won the day over loneliness, anxiety, and corporate greed.
Ultimately, The Lido is a heart-warming and up-lifting tale of friendship, hope and new beginnings. Sure to get you out of the doldrums, this is a pick-me-up read with some fantastic characters and a brilliant sense of place. Perfect for fans of Joanna Cannon or Maria Semple, this is an easy, enjoyable read and is perfect for whiling away a summer afternoon with – or reading in bed when you’re feeling a bit low!
The Lido by Libby Page, and published by Orion, is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones and Amazon. My thanks go to the publisher and to Netgalley for providing an ecopy in return for an honest and unbiased review.