Maybe you've heard of "uplift lit," the term used for a recent crop of novels like "Beartown," "Etta and Otto and Russell and James" and "Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine" that show an individual or community turning a difficult situation around with humor, compassion and grit. Such books inevitably get labeled "charming," "escapist" and "light."
Newcomer Libby Page's "The Lido" fits right into that category. The title, which means "shore" in Italian, is what Europeans call open-air swimming pools, and it's where Rosemary, a Brixton octogenarian, swims nearly every day, in all kinds of weather. She's committed, both because she's built a community there and because it reminds her of her late husband, George.
Twenty-something journalist Kate, a newcomer to London, seeks purpose and seems to find it when an assignment introduces her to the Lido. Before long, she and Rosemary have formed a cross-generational bond over a community protest planned over the pool's imminent closing, and from there, subplots sprout up faster than you can perform a kickturn.
Page's novel received six-figure offers in both the United States and Britain, and it's currently being turned into a movie by the team behind the recent (and sappy) "Finding Your Feet." That kind of attention brings out critical fangs, and quite a few on both sides of the pond have been feasting, with Kirkus saying, "The stakes feel low, but the water's fine," and the Irish Times citing Page's "pedestrian prose."
But tread water for just a minute: Buried in the author's sometimes plodding style lies an unusually poignant tale of married love as the novel looks back at Rosemary and George's union. The couple, childless and working class, are the type of people whose stories are rarely told on this side of the Atlantic; perhaps that's why some of us watch terrible British movies like "Finding Your Feet." Those stories pay attention to older, wrinkled, quirky people whose wardrobes are as limited as their incomes. How refreshing, especially since there shouldn't be an age limit on uplift.