The copy on the back cover of Libby Page’s The Lido describes it as “a tender, joyous debut” and I’ve thought a lot about whether I agree with those adjectives. I think tender fits – it’s quiet, and methodical – and perhaps the conclusion brings joy, but it’s a bit generous to call the whole thing ‘joyous’. What it is, is a coming-of-age novel set in an unassuming English neighborhood about an unassuming woman who meets an octogenarian who convinces her that an unassuming life is not worth living.
Kate is twenty six and her life is entirely controlled by her high levels of anxiety. She lives in Brixton in South London and writes completely forgettable stories for the local paper. She’s assigned to cover the closing of the local lido (read: outdoor swimming pool) and assumes it will be a simple job. Instead, she meets Rosemary, the aforementioned octogenarian, and slowly but surely, everything changes.
Rosemary’s entire life is wrapped up in the lido. She met her husband there, and then found solace in its community when that husband passed away. When the lido is put under threat from a local developer, Rosemary and Kate team up to save it.
This book is perfect for people who like really slow books. People who like quiet books, where the characters are the center rather than the plot. The style is similar to Maeve Binchy, but the characters aren’t quite as Ms. Binchy’s usually are, so there’s something…. *makes wild gesture with my hand* missing. There are large swaths of this novel where I just wondered why I was spending so much time in this scene, or if I really needed all of the back detail of this part of Rosemary’s life. The thing with character studies is that if you don’t connect with the characters, there’s really nothing to study.
Somewhere in The Lido is a delightful story and I caught glimpses of it every once in a while. As débuts go, this one is deeply promising. I am also, as always, open to the idea that all the problems I experienced are mine and not the fault of the craftsmanship. However, I came away from the novel feeling kind of ‘meh’ about it. I’ll be anxious to see what Ms. Page does next, but I do hope it’s more tightly edited.