SECOND OPINION: The Lido by Libby Page

Review published on April 8, 2018.

The Lido is a book that is getting a fair bit of attention at the moment and it’s well-deserved. This book is going to be huge.

Libby Page has written a book that sang to me with its sheer beauty. We follow Rosemary and Kate on their journey to save the Brockwell Lido, but this is not just their story as there are so many characters who will be affected by Brixton Council’s plans to close the open air swimming pool: Frank and Jermaine from the bookshop, Ahmed who’s working at the lido whilst studying, Geoff, the manager. The lido is a real part of the community.

Both the main protagonists though are just wonderful creations. Rosemary is 86 and has swum in the lido since she was a child. A morning dip is part of her daily routine.

“Asking me why I swim is like asking me why I get up in the morning. The answer is the same.”

But she’s lonely without her husband, George and if the lido closes as well then what is left for her? She’s already witnessed the library where she used to work being turned into a trendy bar and losing the lido would mean losing the place where so many of her memories were made.

Journalist Kate is also lonely. 60 years younger than Rosemary, they are unlikely friends but that is what they become when she is tasked with writing about the closure. Kate suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, but somehow swimming at the lido helps her to deal with them.

“Kate pictures her Panic sitting at one of the picnic tables on the lido decking. As she swims she is aware of it there watching, but she feels safe. You can’t get me here, she thinks as she ducks under water, the cold embracing her like an old friend.”

In amongst the fight to keep the lido open, we read about Rosemary and George’s relationship and this is a story of lifelong love, companionship, ease in each other’s company – the right fit. Their story moved me to tears on more than one occasion and it’s easily one of the most wonderful love stories I have read.

“She would have slept on a stone floor every night if it meant sleeping next to him.”

I could quote and quote and quote. The Lido is a stunning book. It’s beautifully written, with a warmth that enveloped me as surely as a cosy blanket would.

I read the end in floods of tears. I can’t remember a book that has moved me to such an extent. Some books bring a tear to my eye, but by the end of The Lido I was sobbing.

I must admit that at the start it took a little getting into and I had in my mind that it would be a solid 4 star read. By the end, if I could have given it 20 stars I would have done. It’s a story of friendship, love, community and fighting for what you believe in. It’s just superb in every way.

Nicola Smith, Short Book and Scribes, 5/4

The Lido by Libby Page
Orion 9781409175209 hbk Apr 2018

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