Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Lido

Title:  The Lido
Author:  Libby Page
Publication Information:  Simon & Schuster. 2018. 320 pages.
ISBN:  150118203X / 978-1501182037

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Step out of the Brixton underground station and it is a carnival of steel drums, the white noise of traffic, and that man on the corner shouting, 'God loves you,' even to the unlovable"

Favorite Quote:  "Stories were Kate's friends when she found people challenging. She searched them out, hiding among them in the library and tucking herself into their pages. She folded herself into the shape of Hermoine Granger or George from The Famous Five or Catherine Moreland from Northanger Abbey and tried to be them for a day."

Sometimes you just need a feel good book, a book in which the "good guys" or in this case the "good strong women" take on the big bad corporations. You cheer for them, and you worry for them. You hope they win. If they do, wonderful. If they don't, the community they develop during the fight makes it all worthwhile. The Lido is such a book.

As a non-British reader, I had to look up the word "lido" which, in British English, means a public outdoor pool. Our community has two of them, and they are a hub of activity all summer long. The lido of this book is based on the Brockwell Lido in South London. This lido operated from 1937 until 1990; a local community campaign brought it back into existence a few years later. That is the historical context for the book.

The lido provides the setting. Beyond that, this book is the story of Rosemary Peterson and Kate Matthews. Both are alone in their own way. Rosemary is around eighty years old and a widow. Her husband George died after decades of them being together. Rosemary is also a swimmer. The lido has been the place where her entire life's story has played out. Kate is twenty-something year old and a relative newcomer to the area. She suffers from panic attacks and loneliness; her efforts to hide those isolate her further and further from even her own family.

Rosemary and Kate meet when Kate is assigned to write about the possibility that the lido is being sold to a private developer who will take a public gathering place and turn it into a members only club. The book proceeds along three threads. The first is the fight to save a public resource that means so much to so many. The second is Rosemary's memories of a lifetime - her childhood, her love, her marriage, and how it all revolved around the lido. The third is of the friendship that forms between Rosemary and Kate and how that helps Kate find her way. "She took the loneliness out of being alone."

Surrounding these endearing women is a cast of equally charming community of diverse characters. Hope is Rosemary's friend and someone with an equally long history with the lido. Jay is the photographer for the Brixton Chronicle, where Kate works as a reporter. Phil runs the Brixton Chronicle and has to worry about the economic impact of his decisions. Erin is Kate's sister. Geoff is the manager of the the lido. Ahmed is the young man who finds a safe haven at the lido that allows him to stay focused on school and higher goals. Frank and Jerome are partners in life and in the local bookshop. Through these characters and more, the book paints a picture of a diverse community that cares about each other and stands together.

The book is simple, not dramatic, and predictable. And, for this story, that is all okay. It leaves me smiling, and with the reminder quoted in the book description. "We're never too old to make new friends - or to make a difference."

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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