The Lido, Libby Page
Published July 10th, 2018
We’re never too old to make new friends—or to make a difference.
Rosemary Peterson has lived in Brixton, London, all her life but everything is changing.
The library where she used to work has closed. The family grocery store has become a trendy bar. And now the lido, an outdoor pool where she’s swam daily since its opening, is threatened with closure by a local housing developer. It was at the lido that Rosemary escaped the devastation of World War II; here she fell in love with her husband, George; here she found community during her marriage and since George’s death.
Twenty-something Kate Matthews has moved to Brixton and feels desperately alone. A once promising writer, she now covers forgettable stories for her local paper. That is, until she’s assigned to write about the lido’s closing. Soon Kate’s portrait of the pool focuses on a singular woman: Rosemary. And as Rosemary slowly opens up to Kate, both women are nourished and transformed in ways they never thought possible.
In the tradition of Fredrik Backman, The Lido is a charming, feel-good novel that captures the heart and spirit of a community across generations—an irresistible tale of love, loss, aging, and friendship
The Lido is a lovely and charming read that is perfect for summer. The story centers around a community lido in south London that is under threat of closing, and the unlikely friendship that develops between a young journalist in her twenties and an octogenarian widow. Kate Mathews writes community interest articles for the local Brixton paper and is tasked with writing about the lido. Through this assignment, she meets life-long Brixton resident Rosemary, who has swum at the lido daily for decades. So many of Rosemary’s most cherished memories have taken place at the lido, and the thought of losing this special place feels like she is losing her beloved husband George all over again.
Kate is quickly drawn to Rosemary’s story and to the lido itself. When she takes up swimming again under Rosemary’s encouragement, Kate’s panic attacks begin to fade away. She discovers the importance of community through her friendship with Rosemary and the other patrons of the lido. The two women set out to save the lido from a developer that plans to turn it into tennis courts belonging to a luxury apartment building. Along the way, they each gain something they’ve been missing. The lido is more than a place to swim; it is a way of life, a community gathering point, an antidote to loneliness, and a shimmering memorial to love and friendship.
My favorite thing about Libby Page’s debut novel is the heartwarming friendship between Rosemary and Kate. It’s not often that books feature intergenerational friendship in this way, and it was so refreshing to read about. Their relationship is one of mutual respect, appreciation, and enrichment. Neither woman would have been able to accomplish what they did without the other standing (or swimming) by her side.
I also really enjoyed the themes of community and of change. The Lido felt very timely in its focus on gentrification and urbanization. Many of Page’s observations of London life were beautifully and vividly rendered. I enjoyed some of the short chapter vignettes that followed secondary and tertiary Brixton residents – and even a fox – as they went about their days. However, I did feel like this got a bit gimmicky after a while and took away from the strength of the main story.
For the most part, I found The Lido to be solidly written; there were even some sections of prose that were simply dazzling. Yet there were also many times I thought the writing was lackluster and a bit unrefined. A lot of the dialogue and interior monologues of the characters didn’t ring true for me. Sadly, this often took me out of the story too much. Overall, The Lido felt like the debut that it is, and while there were some moments of brilliance, I can’t help but wish it had been more polished and streamlined. As much as I adored the story and the characters, they were let down a bit by the writing.
The Lido is a sweet and entertaining read that is well worth dipping your toe into. This story of friendship, loss, community, and change is sure to tug on your heartstrings. It will make you long for a warm summer day, a cold outdoor pool, and a good friend at your side.
**A huge thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review**
This is book 7 of my 20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge, (and yes, I am reviewing them out of order)