By Ekta R. Garg
August 17, 2018
Genre: Women’s fiction
Release date: July 10, 2018
Rated: Bordering on Bookmark it! / 3.5 stars
Two women come together for a common cause and form a deep friendship despite the difference in their ages. One enjoys the memories of her past; the other wants to find her future. Both women will find a measure of comfort in the relationship they share in the present even as they fight to save something they love. Author Libby Page charms readers and will leave them smiling with her debut novel The Lido.
People might look at Kate Mathews and think she’s in her prime: a single woman in her twenties who has just moved to a bustling London suburb with a new job. Kate knows, though, that her life is anything but ideal. She’s moved to Brixton, yes, but she desperately misses the security of her own hometown. She’s landed a job as a writer, but she’s not covering meaty topics important to society. Her little blurbs serve as filler for the local paper. As for friends, well, Kate has none. About the same amount as her self-confidence.
Then she gets assigned a real story. The Brixton lido, or open-air swimming pool, is slated to close soon, and Kate’s job is to talk to people and do a quick roundup of thoughts and sentiments. A prominent housing development company looks in perfect position to buy the lido to turn it into flats, and the story itself seems destined to play out in expected fashion.
Except that Kate wasn’t counting on getting caught up in the excitement surrounding the lido—the excitement to save it, that is. Rosemary Peterson is leading the campaign, and Kate’s editor picks Rosemary as the most likely source for the feel-good information behind the lido’s history. What Kate finds, instead, is a charming, compelling woman with strong feelings about why the lido should stay open.
For Rosemary, the lido represents more than a place for invigorating exercise. She’s come to swim there every single day since it opened. She met her late husband, George, at the lido and shared some of her sweetest moments with him there. The lido provided shelter during wartime and solace during other life challenges. The lido, to Rosemary, embodies whole sections of her existence.
Rosemary consents to an interview but only if Kate goes swimming at the lido first. As Kate takes the plunge—literally and figuratively—with Rosemary, she discovers some special people of her own. All of a sudden, the cause for saving the lido becomes just as vibrant and necessary for Kate as it is for Rosemary, and the two become close friends and co-conspirators in how to save a place that has given them both so much.
Debut author Libby Page will charm readers with her two main characters. She’s drawn two endearing protagonists in Kate and Rosemary, and their friendship earns the highest score for the book. Rosemary’s love story resonates with all the best elements of an old-world tale; Kate’s loneliness in a large city rings true for newly-independent people everywhere.
Slightly less successful is the novel overall. Some parts of the story feel a little too pat, and serendipity plays a role in many places. Marketing materials compare Page’s book to Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove, but Page’s prose doesn’t stand up to Backman’s lyrical talent nor his ability to pack deep thought into the most casual paragraphs.
Readers will most likely guess important plot advancements and even the ending long before Kate and Rosemary get to them, but the journey through the story is likeable enough. Also, Page drops in little pieces of each of the protagonists’ independent lives to make readers feel like they’re getting to know the characters well: Rosemary reminisces about her time with George; Page talks to her older sister and gets a chance to refresh that relationship.
Overall the book may not offer readers a staggering story, but it’s a pleasant novel appropriate for a vacation or the beach. I found The Lido Bordering on Bookmarking it.