In need of a feel-good beach read to take to Lisbon last week, I reached for The Lido by Libby Page.
Kate is a twenty-six-year-old journalist living in London and writing forgettable, mundane stories for her local newspaper, the Brixton Chronicle. Having moved from Bristol to London to make a name for herself as a journalist, she lives a lonely existence in house full of strangers and, riddled with anxiety and panic attacks, she hides herself away during the evenings and weekends. However, when she’s assigned to write about the closing of Brixton lido, she has no idea of the impact it will have on her life.
The piece introduces Kate to eighty-six-year-old Rosemary, the lido’s most dedicated swimmer. The lido is swimming (pardon the pun) with memories of Rosemary’s late husband and post-war sweetheart, George. She has swum there every day since it opened when she was a child and she heavily opposes its closing by a property developer who want to turn it into an upmarket apartment complex. Rosemary immerses Kate into her community and together they endeavour to save the lido.
Although Kate has a love interest in Jay, the Brixton Chronicle’s photographer who assists with her pieces on the lido, and the narrative is interlaced with poignant snippets of Rosemary and George’s story, friendship is at the heart of the novel. Love isn’t heralded as the catalyst for transforming Kate’s life. Instead, it’s the actions she takes, encouraged by her new friends, which build her self-confidence and ease her anxiety. Rosemary finds something she didn’t even know she was looking for in her friendship with Kate too, and they heal each other from past pains.
Kate’s relationship with her sister, Erin, also plays an important part in helping her to find her feet. Living in Bath, Kate and her sister have drifted apart since they were children. Kate hasn’t felt like she can be honest with Erin about how much she is suffering, but the lido brings them back together and they support each other through their struggles. Libby Page paints sisterly love perfectly and their relationship struck a chord with me, especially as London and Bath is the physical distance between me and my sister!
Kate herself is the most relatable female protagonist I’ve ever encountered. The same age as her, with writerly ambitions, I have experienced the same feelings of loneliness and the confusion that comes with being in your mid-twenties. I know what it is like to live in London and feel isolated. It was comforting to find a kindred spirit in Kate and, although it was slightly unsettling being reminded of how I felt when I was in a similar situation, it was encouraging to read how she took steps to combat it. What touched me the most though was the way in which Libby Page sensitively portrays Kate’s anxiety, which she calls The Panic, and accurately describes a sensation which is so hard to put into words.
The Lido is a wonderfully uplifting, tender story of love, loss, community and unexpected friendship. Her debut novel, Libby Page is a fresh, contemporary new voice in fiction and I’m looking forward to reading more novels from her in the future – it’s obviously her destiny to be a successful author with a surname like Page!
“You’re doing a great job,’ says Erin. ‘It might not feel like it all the time, but that’s okay. You’re allowed to feel lonely, you’re allowed to feel panicked. It doesn’t make you any less of a person.”