Review: The Lido by Libby Page

​​”Sometimes you need to swim outside the lanes”

Genre: General Fiction, British Fiction (I refuse to write Women’s Fiction just because it’s a story with female characters)

Similar to: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, *whispers* Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (I don’t want to jump on the NEXT BIG THING bandwagon)

Could be enjoyed by: Fans of quirky, heartwarming British literature

Publication date: 19th April 2018

Well blow me down with a feather – it’s so rare nowadays to hear the words South London in relation to anything other than knife crime/drugs/violence and yet…what do we have here? A book about COMMUNITY and FRIENDSHIP and PEOPLE BEING NICE TO EACH OTHER and it is so lovely and touching and relevant that I want to weep.

The Lido is the story of Rosemary (86), who has lived in Brixton for all of her life. She’s been a regular user of Brockwell Lido since she was a child and still goes every morning for her daily swim. When the local council announce plans to sell the facility off to redevelopers, Kate (26) is asked to cover the story for the local paper. After meeting Rosemary, Kate realises that the lido is so much more than just somewhere to exercise and her and Rosemary’s battle to save it gives them both a new purpose as well as an unlikely friendship.

I really enjoyed the overall premise of the book. I liked the idea that one of the characters (Rosemary) had lived in the area all of her life, and the way that she talked about her home really gave you a sense of what it was like to live in Brixton, how it had changed but how there was still a thriving community, just like there always had been. I thought that the time slips back to Rosemary’s younger days (including her fond memories of her husband George) worked particularly well and I loved that, as an older character, she brought so much local knowledge that really grounded the story. I found her descriptions of the lido in the 1940’s and 50’s particularly evocative and her personal account gave me an emotional connection to the building and the campaign to save it.

I thought that the author did particularly well to write such a charming, quirky book that covered some big, weighty topics. Loneliness is a key theme (both in younger and older people) and I could definitely relate to the feeling of living in a city full of people but still being cut off and isolated from the world. I loved that Rosemary was able to help Kate to integrate into the local community and that helping her to do so also gave Rosemary a new friend *thinks for the five millionth time about volunteering locally*. I also thought that issues around grief and depression were handled sensitively – we definitely need to hear more about bereavement in older people.

I really enjoyed the depiction of exercise helping people with anxiety and low self esteem. I thought it was really interesting that the author chose an individual sport like swimming but still managed to show how just taking part gave the characters so much more than a workout. I know I immediately thought about making more use of my local council pool (then I remembered how much effort it takes to prepare to swim and how disgusting the sports centre is – it’s due to be demolished and rebuilt so maybe I’ll go to the new one*)

The only drawback I have for The Lido is that it does occasionally dip its toe into the saccharine waters of the overly sentimental (see what I did there?) and there’s a romance storyline that feels a bit unnecessary and slightly detracts from the overriding theme of strong female friendship (why does a character always have to pull to evidence their newfound happiness?) but overall the pacing is good and there was enough drama to keep me entertained. 

Apart from those minor niggles, I think it goes without saying that I loved The Lido. It’s a completely feel-good read that still covered a whole bunch of difficult topics. I loved that the characters of Rosemary and Kate became friends despite the age gap and I especially liked how having an older character gave the novel a grounding and history that enhanced my emotional connection. I found the whole thing utterly charming – perfect as a gentle summery read.

Rating: Four hold-your-nose-and-jumps out of five.

Lovely, funny, sad, joyous, infuriating, heartwarming, evocative, charming, uplifting, emotional…literally ALL OF THE FEELS. The Lido is like a hug in a book.

Please note that I read this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks Netgalley! I also read this novel as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2018 #23 Read a book with a female protagonist over the age of 60. 

*  I definitely won’t.