Review published on January 28, 2018.
For someone who spent their childhood in swimming pools, Libby Page’s beautiful debut The Lido took me right back to that inherent love of swimming. It is a book whose setting is so wonderfully depicted and so sparklingly unique that it cannot help but make you want to seek out your swimming costume or trunks and head to your nearest lido. The characters’ love for the lido and the story of Rosemary and George is in fact so infectious that it may even convince you of taking a winter paddle (almost). It certainly offers a near halcyon image of a perfect spring or summer day. And it is very much down to the superb writing and passion of its author, herself an avid swimmer, that this seemingly prosaic setting becomes such an idyllic, warm and inviting backdrop. It is testament to her brilliant characters too, not least octogenarian Rosemary, whose connection to and love of the lido is both inspiring and motivating. Indeed, in the character of Rosemary, Page has crafted a wonderfully empowering vision of mature womanhood, a woman who has her pains and has experienced her losses, certainly, but who carries on with strength and positivity. And in her second protagonist, twenty-six-year-old Kate, the author provides the perfect counterpart for a mutually beneficial intergenerational friendship. But Page doesn’t stop there, peopling the book with a lovely cast of extras who really bring the sense of community and inclusivity to life.
I loved the structuring of the novel with short, easy-to-read chapters that alternate predominantly between Rosemary and Kate but which are inset with shorter chapters from some of the other swimmers. If I’m being really picky, I would has loved a couple of extra chapters from even more swimmers and to have seen more of the development of Rosemary and Kate’s friendship in the first third of the novel, as some of it takes place off page. But these are just finicky points that don’t take away from the brilliance of this novel. And it is indeed brilliant, not least because of the sense of warmth and positivity at its core.
The emotional balance of the novel is perfectly struck and whilst I found the tears coming early on, it was refreshing for the novel to work beyond this to a place of joy and hope, even in spite of its ending. What I loved so much about this novel was its feel-good nature, its optimism and hope. It is nice to be reminded of the humanity and community of mankind, of the friendship and kindness of others and of all of the simple yet remarkable pleasures there are in life. For anyone feeling a bit despondent with all the doom and gloom in the world, Page’s novel offers a soothing balm, and I would urge anyone and everyone to dip their toe into the restorative waters of this book, and if you’re feeling really brave to test out the waters for real. Whether or not you love swimming, whether or not you’ve ever been to a lido, Page has managed to create a novel that will resonate with everyone because of its spirit, and I suspect this will be one of the books that will make a splash in 2018. (Pun very much intended.)
Jade Craddock 5/5
The Lido by Libby Page
Orion 9781409175209 hbk Apr 2018
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