“This is what it looks like to see a person crumple. You think that bones and skin are suitable scaffolding for a person, but when a person is crumpling you realise that we are not built of strong enough stuff. Being a human can be like being a cobweb in a storm.”
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.
Over on my instagram as I am sure many of you already know, I run a monthly bookclub known as “Bookstagram Supports Mental Health Book Club”. Each month we choose a book with a mental health representation, read it at our own pace throughout the month and come together at the end discussing whether it had a positive or negative representation and what we liked about said book. Decembers book was The Lido by Libby Page.
This book was absolutely fantastic, it was everything that I wanted for a book and more. There were many different mental health representations within this book including, withdrawal, loneliness, body confidence and panic attacks. Libby deals with such prevalent unspoken topics so delicately and beautifully. It was unanimously agreed upon in the group chat that this was a wonderful book with such a positive mental health representation. One which everybody should read.
As somebody with anxiety I find that a lot of books with characters that have anxiety over exert the matter and therefore completely miss the mark when it comes to representing it. Libby does not do that. I felt that Kate’s anxiety was so relatable and all the areas that triggered her panic felt very close to home for me. The symptoms were so detailed but actually exactly how I feel when I have had panic attacks in the past.
What was also discussed which I loved was the importance of support networks. We view this in the way that both characters begin by being lonely, not asking for help and dealing with their problems on their own in the way that they see fit. The theme of loneliness was very raw but subtle at the same time. It really helped to show the reader that having something or somebody that you love can really help you. Doing things that you enjoy can help with your mental health massively i.e. Rosemary and swimming. One of the ladies in our discussion group actually mentioned how this book made her realise this and how she is going to make a conscious effort to go swimming in the new year which is something that she loves but has abandoned this year.
I loved how this book was written from two different perspectives. Perspectives that are in fact completely opposite. Rosemary is an elderly lady, Kate a young adult. It really added to the effectiveness of the mental health element. It showed that it does not matter at what stage in your life you are, mental health effects us all and actually people deal with these things in completely different ways. I absolutely loved them both as characters separately and together. The team that they make is incredible and I love the support that they give to each other.
That brings me to the ending. THE ENDING. Now it is a very well known fact that I am heartless. I don’t cry in my every day life let alone when reading a book. However I had such an emotional connection to the story and the characters that I actually sobbed. I didn’t have tears, I sobbed so much and I am welling up just writing this, The ending was so so emotional it literally topped off this absolutely beautiful book.
If you have not already picked up this book that please do. You will not regret it!