From the blurb:
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.
Published by Orion 19th April 2018
You can buy a copy of this book here.
A conversation with the bookseller that was ringing up my stack of new acquisitions a couple of months ago went something along the lines of ‘Have you read ‘Eleanor Oliphant’ – people are comparing ‘The Lido’ to it.’ This sort of comment always fills me with trepidation – surely no two books are the same and each book should be viewed individually on its own merits? But I do understand the principles of marketing, and with the amazing success of ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman, any publisher would do well to try and replicate that level of accomplishment. And sometimes piggy-backing is the way to go.
Needless to say I took the book home, and a couple of months later had the impetus to pick up the new contemporary novel to get my teeth into. ‘The Lido’ tells the story of two women: Kate and Rosemary. Kate is a twenty-something journalist for a local paper, living on her own in London – a city she still doesn’t feel at home in despite years of living there. One day her boss asks her to cover a story about the potential closure of the local lido and, making a visit there, she meets Rosemary. Rosemary can’t remember a time when the lido hasn’t been a part of her life. Its presence is wrapped up in a myriad of life memories, including those with her late husband, George. It is where she played as a child; it is where she learnt to swim; it is where she fell in love. And now the prospect of the lido closing fills her with dread. Their meeting instigates a plan to save the lido, which soon blossoms into a great friendship.
A plot about a local lido closing and a campaign to save it doesn’t necessarily engender ideas of a great novel. But that isn’t all there is to it. Firstly, Page has so much to say about community. We live, mostly, in such isolated bubbles in the modern world; most of our connections come from the internet and social media, and while that’s no bad thing, we seem to have lost a lot of the elements of community from our local neighbourhoods. If you asked me to tell you the names of my neighbours, I’d have to scratch my head for a while. Ask me to name anybody else who lives in my local area, and I wouldn’t be able to give you any kind of answer. And maybe that comes from the fact that I live in the suburbs of a town, and that living in a small community in the countryside would allow me a bit more of a sense of togetherness. Otherwise, though, we’re losing that sense of affinity with people in our local area. And Libby Page writes about a sense in which we can keep that – perhaps by using some of the local amenities and conveniences, we can get that feeling of community back. Join a local club. Go to the local newsagent. Use your local swimming pool. Speak to people and form associations and friendships.
What Page also communicated so well was the topic of loneliness, especially in younger people. You don’t really associate isolation and loneliness with those in the younger generation. If you’re in your twenties, people automatically assume you’re always on WhatsApp or at the pub with a gaggle of mates, but this excludes an awful lot of people. People like Kate, who find it difficult to make friends and whose social anxiety has weaved itself into the very fabric of her life. I thought that Libby Page did such a good job of exploring this issue and highlighting the many different faces of loneliness in our society.
The comparison to ‘Eleanor Oliphant’ mentioned earlier is probably not a bad one. It will probably make more people pick this book up and read it. But to market it on this comparison alone would be doing ‘The Lido’ a disservice. This should be marketed as a book about modern Britain; a book about what we should be spending our valuable time fighting for: friendship, and making connections with those around us.