by Libby Page
Libby Page’s debut novel gives us an immediately accessible, heart-warming story of female friendship, love and the importance of community.
Rosemary, an eighty-six year old widow, has swum at the Brockwell Lido in Brixton all her life. She learns from the lido manager, Geoff, that a property development company called, ironically, Paradise Living, wants to buy the lido from Lambeth Council. The lido has been losing money; turning it into a private members club, with a tennis court replacing the swimming pool, to serve the expensive flats being developed, makes commercial sense. Rosemary‘s life has centred around the lido from the age of sixteen, when she met her husband, George, at the local street party celebrating the end of the war. During their long and happy marriage, living in a flat overlooking the lido, they have seen their world changing over the years. Rosemary, a former librarian, and George, a local greengrocer, have witnessed the closure of many local shops and the local library. Troubled by rumours of the lido’s closure,
Rosemary sets about producing a leaflet to try to gather support to stop the sale. She is approached by Kate, a 26 year old cub reporter from the Brixton Chronicle, who has been promoted from births, marriages and deaths, to cover the story of the proposed closure. Kate, an anxious young woman suffering from panic attacks, has had difficulty making a life for herself in London. This unexpected professional opportunity sees her discovering interesting local history and gives her a sense of purpose. She, together with the help of the paper’s charming photographer Jake, is slowly drawn into the campaign to keep the lido open. Kate and Rosemary develop a strong friendship; each helps the other – Rosemary to explore her memories and Kate to overcome her psychological woes.
The local community is galvanized to fight the lido’s closure. We are introduced to interested, and interesting, characters living in the area, from Ellis, the fruit and vegetable man, and his son Jake, to Frank and Jarmaine at the second-hand book shop. Ahmed, studying for his ‘A’ levels, with a part-time job as a receptionist at the lido, starts a Facebook campaign. All are prepared to fight to stop the closure of yet another local service.
The Lido is a charming novel that captures the heart and spirit of a community. It is a fable for our time where community spirit seeks to assuage the anxieties found in this millennial age....... and a good holiday read, too!
Review by Jean Fox, Sherborne Literary Society