Swimming in ‘up lit’

  • Book: The Lido
  • Location: Brixton
  • Author: Libby Page

Review Author: JustRetiring



The publishing mega trend of ‘grip lit‘ from a few years ago – ‘Girl on a Train’, ‘Gone Girl’ and so many others of that literary ilk – has been elbowed aside recently, politely of course, by what’s being called ‘up lit‘.

Gail Honeyman’s ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine‘ was in the vanguard of this new movement, together with ‘How to Stop Time‘ by Matt Haig. Perhaps a reaction to all that twisted fictional nastiness, and the horrors unfolding in the real world, up lit wraps the reader in optimism, everyday heroism, nice people and love.

Step forward Libby Page and her debut novel ‘The Lido‘, a feel-good book to the core.

Young journalist Kate is struggling to adapt to life in the big city, overwhelmed by isolation and succumbing to The Panic. ‘As Kate walks she imagines that somewhere in the city, someone like her sits in their room alone and eats peanut butter from the jar. She wonders if any of these strangers would understand her if she told them the thing she can’t tell her family – that some days she doesn’t want to get up at all and that she has forgotten what it feels like to be happy.’

But in researching a story about the imminent closure of the Brockwell Lido in Brixton, Kate stumbles across the therapeutic effects of outdoor swimming, forms an unlikely but close friendship with 86 year-old Rosemary and finds happiness and a reason to embrace life.

For some reason I wanted to be cynical about The Lido, but resistance is futile. The cast of characters woven around Kate and Rosemary are wholly good and lovable, Brixton sings with character and humanity and only the faceless property development company Paradise Living demands the reader’s odium. All is well in Kate’s sunlit ‘up lit’ lands, once the conflicts have been resolved, but there is undeniably an endearing charm about Libby’s simple prose, heart-warming characters and plot.

‘Kate and Rosemary swim their way through the end of the summer and into autumn, pulling their arms through the water where fallen leaves float like boats. Every day they swim in the cold water and every day they sit for a while pn the bench outside the lido, waiting for their hair to dry and talking to each other.’

‘Same time tomorrow?’ says Kate as she stands up to leave.

‘Same time tomorrow,’ says Rosemary.

I was lucky to meet and interview author Libby Page for TripFiction at last year’s Guildford Book Festival: https://www.tripfiction.com/libby-page-brixton-the-lido/ – she is a talented writer, as well as a lovely person and keen swimmer, and I can’t wait to see how uplifting her second novel is, and where it takes the reader.

And just a thought….could The Lido have started off a new ‘flood lit’ literary genre? And would a new wave of depressing fiction be known as ‘down lit’.…?

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