Kate is a twenty-six-year-old riddled with anxiety and panic attacks who works for a local paper in Brixton, London, covering forgettably small stories. When she’s assigned to write about the closing of the local lido (an outdoor pool and recreation center), she meets Rosemary, an eighty-six-year-old widow who has swum at the lido daily since it opened its doors when she was a child. It was here Rosemary fell in love with her husband, George; here that she’s found communion during her marriage and since George’s death. The lido has been a cornerstone in nearly every part of Rosemary’s life.
But when a local developer attempts to buy the lido for a posh new apartment complex, Rosemary’s fond memories and sense of community are under threat.
As Kate dives deeper into the lido’s history—with the help of a charming photographer—she pieces together a portrait of the pool, and a portrait of a singular woman, Rosemary. What begins as a simple local interest story for Kate soon blossoms into a beautiful friendship that provides sustenance to both women as they galvanize the community to fight the lido’s closure. Meanwhile, Rosemary slowly, finally, begins to open up to Kate, transforming them both in ways they never knew possible.
I firmly believe that some books truly do call to us. There are certain times in our lives that are the perfect moment to curl up with certain books. My time reading The Lido by Libby Page was one of the those experiences. I kept seeing this book all over Bookstagram. I knew that it was one that I would read at some point. I was reading a few other things that were not really keeping my attention so I decided to check if my local library had a copy. They did. I put it on hold and got it a few days later. At the time I did not realize how fortuitous it was that my small town Indiana public library had a copy. The copy that I had was the UK edition. The U.S. version was only released a few weeks ago. Personally, I am glad to have read the UK edition because I prefer that cover.
Again, this book was calling to me. I did not know why at first but once I completed it, with tears in my eyes, I knew the answer. Kate was a character that I quickly identified with. Her days are consumed by anxiety and panic attacks. She is capable of doing so many great things but her mental illness causes her to be locked in fear. When it comes down to it, just getting through the day is the only achievable goal. Then she meets Rosemary and slowly begins to break free of the stranglehold that her anxiety has on her life.
I have battled anxiety all of my life. I am now 31 years old and only just now realizing how much anxiety has controlled my life…even my childhood.
Two days before I finished The Lido I had an unexpected visit from my old foe ANXIETY. I was at work. I was not having a difficult work day. I was not in an obviously uncomfortable situation. I should have been feeling fine. There was no reason (as far as I could tell) for me to have anxiety. I was locked in fear and panic. My heart was racing. I wanted to be home. The only thing I could think about was being able to go home. I could not focus on anything but getting through the rest of my day. Most of my work day was spent trying to control my anxiety, figure out why I was filled with anxiety, counting down the clock and being obsessed with getting home.
I came home to my husband’s open arms and just silently cried. Thankfully it happened on a Friday so I did not have the added concern of having to return to work the next day. I had the weekend to recoup and “relax”. I put relax in quotation marks because I rarely feel relaxed. In a past post entitled “How Reading Saved My Life” I share the past few years in which I was stuck in a toxic work situation that resulted in depression, anxiety, leaving the toxic job, and an eight month long job search. During those two years of mentally exhaustive employment I had frequent attacks of anxiety as well as a few terrifying panic attacks. During my time of unemployment I still dealt with anxiety. Today, I am still recovering. I am still dealing with bouts of anxiety that leave me panicked, exhausted and feeling like a heart attack is not an unrealistic possibility. Frankly, anxiety is always lurking around the corner.
The Lido is a story of how an unlikely friendship and outdoor swimming pool saved Kate from a life consumed by anxiety. It follows Kate as she embarks on a path of cultivating new friendships, reaching new heights in her career and experiencing empowerment with a sense of duty. It is an absolutely lovely story that truly spoke to my heart. When I finished the last page I closed the book, held it close to my chest and hugged it. While I am not expecting my story to be anything like Kate’s I still know that something like it will come my way. I know that my days are not going to be filled with anxiety forever. I know that I am going to reach a point in which past experiences are going to be behind me and not affect my current life. I will accept deep in my bones that my new job situation is not going to be anything like the toxic hell I went through for two years.
The Lido instilled a sense of hope in me. It shows that, like Kate, something will appear in my life that will result in me re-discovering the confidence and determination that I once knew. I will find that drive and once again be introduced to the Jamie that I once knew. I know that she is in there. She has had a lot of changes in her life so she will not be the same Jamie I have known in the past. I am looking forward to getting to know the new Jamie of the future. My recent bouts with anxiety indicate to me that she is not ready to come out yet but I have no doubt that it will happen soon enough.
One other book has ended in a hug this year for me. That book is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I will always be searching for that special reading experience that I had with Eleanor Oliphant. I will always remember sitting in my rocking chair by a sun filled window and hugging it tightly. I adored that book and the character of Eleanor Oliphant. When I began reading The Lido I quickly got Eleanor Oliphant vibes. The stories are very similar but the female characters are different. Eleanor Oliphant is odd and quirky. Kate is none of those things. I personally relate more with Kate than Eleanor. So if, like me, you are searching for that special reading experience….I think that you will find it with this LOVELY debut by Libby Page.
The Lido by Libby Page is now available.
Do yourself a favor and go get this book now!