Book review of “The Lido” by Libby Page.
On Goodreads, the blurb for this novel says “Kate is a twenty-six-year-old riddled with anxiety and panic attacks who works for a local paper in Brixton, London, covering forgettably small stories. When she’s assigned to write about the closing of the local lido (an outdoor pool and recreation center), she meets Rosemary, an eighty-six-year-old widow who has swum at the lido daily since it opened its doors when she was a child. It was here Rosemary fell in love with her husband, George; here that she’s found communion during her marriage and since George’s death. The lido has been a cornerstone in nearly every part of Rosemary’s life.” This is a very good summary of this book, although it wasn’t evident to me that Rosemary had been swimming at the Lido “since it opened its doors” but that’s a minor point.
Goodreads also calls this book “A tender, joyous debut novel about a cub reporter and her eighty-six-year-old subject—and the unlikely and life-changing friendship that develops between them.” While I can agree with almost all of this, there’s more. From my viewpoint, over and above this, Page also gives us portraits of two very different women, that also have much in common. Furthermore, Page also shows us how, through their serendipitous connection, these two women become more than they were before the two met; in other words, this is also a dual coming of age novel.
Also, while this book will make you smile – and often, in fact – I’m not sure that “joyous” is the word that I would have chosen to apply to this novel. Yes, there are some very delightful parts of this story, but I felt that the overall atmosphere of the book was more a mixture of emotions, not all of them positive. For example, there’s a good deal of quiet resignation that runs throughout most of this story, which tends to color the mood of a majority of this story in a slightly grayish light (both because of and despite the famous English weather). This isn’t to say that the book is depressing, but rather that there’s a somewhat poignant undertone to most of the narrative.
What brightens this book up the most is the quiet grace and subtle optimism that Page imbues in Rosemary, who we can both adore and admire. While Kate never fully succeeds in emulating this by the end of this novel, Page makes us believe that Kate may eventually achieve this, even if that’s not actually spelled out in the story. The ability of an author to do this – assist the readers in imagining what happens after the last page – is something I truly appreciate, and for a debut novel, this is quite an achievement, so kudos to Page for that. Moreover, Page did a really lovely job with building up the minor characters, and avoiding any obvious pitfalls when it came to the romantic interest for Kate.
Together with this, Page also developed a very appealing plot, which allowed her to pull both Kate and Rosemary together along with all her other characters on a very interesting ride with the common goal of a community trying to save their beloved Lido. Between those parts of the story, Page also mingled in an excellent balance of the overview of Rosemary’s history with the Lido, which paralleled her lifelong love of her husband, George.
As you can see, there is a whole lot to praise about this novel. However, there were a couple of things that didn’t sit completely right with me. One of these was the chapters in the book that described this fox that wanders the neighborhood. While I can understand why Page put these in the book, and I’m thankful she didn’t write them from the fox’s perspective, I felt that they didn’t really add all that much to the story. If it had been my novel, I probably would have left them out. The other thing that wasn’t quite right for me, were a couple of short chapters at the end of the novel, which gave the reader a touch too much information for my taste. Even so, Page is a very talented writer, with a lovely imagination and a true penchant for both character and plot development. That’s why I can recommend this book with a very strong four out of five stars.
Simon & Schuster and Orion released “The Lido” by Libby Page on July 10, 2018. This book is available (via these affiliate links) from Amazon, Kobo eBooks, Kobo audio books, eBooks.com, iTunes (iBook or audiobook), The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris or Better World Books (to support libraries and literacy, free worldwide delivery) as well as from an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for inviting me to read an ARC of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.