There’s nothing new or stand-out special here but somehow this manages to be a happy heart-warming book. Featuring stock characters and an abundance of clichés, it also encompasses some of the big themes that several books of the moment (Eleanor Oliphant I’m looking at you) favour. Loneliness, anxiety, community spirit and kindness all make an appearance with a dash of gentrification issues and activism.
The story centres around famous South London landmark Brockwell Lido which (only in the novel, don’t panic) is under threat. Like many council amenities in London it is expensive to run, so when a property development company makes an offer with a view to redeveloping it into luxury flats, a Brixton journalist joins forces with an old lady and a group of local characters to campaign to save it.
What happens next is fairly predictable, but the narrative canters along nicely with the backstories of 86-year-old Rosemary – who has lived all her life in Brixton and went on her first date at the Lido, and twenty-something Kate – who has moved there from Bristol with a broken heart and regular panic attacks – woven in alongside the growing campaign to save the Lido.
In many ways the book makes important points about places like libraries, bookshops and public parks which are the lifeblood of a community but whose significance is only appreciated when they are gone. Libby Page is also good on cross-generational friendships, the way we live with loss, and the small things that mean a great deal. I picked the book up because I live around the corner from the Lido, and despite myself have found myself recommending it to all my neighbours.
The Lido is published by Orion, 384 pages.