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Book Review: The Lido by Libby Page #LoveTheLido

Libby Page’s debut novel The Lido has been on my book radar from the moment I first heard about it on Twitter. My own local lido reopened in 2015 (after lottery funding enabled its restoration) and a novel set around one under threat sounded interesting. That it also had at its heart an age-gap relationship between two women made it all the more appealing to me, as I’m lucky enough to have some great intergenerational friendships. Here’s what it’s about:

Meet Rosemary, 86, and Kate, 26: dreamers, campaigners, outdoor swimmers…

Rosemary has lived in Brixton all her life, but everything she knows is changing. Only the local lido, where she swims every day, remains a constant reminder of the past and her beloved husband George.

Kate has just moved and feels adrift in a city that is too big for her. She’s on the bottom rung of her career as a local journalist, and is determined to make something of it.

So when the lido is threatened with closure, Kate knows this story could be her chance to shine. But for Rosemary, it could be the end of everything. Together they are determined to make a stand, and to prove that the pool is more than just a place to swim – it is the heart of the community.

There’s a lot to love about The Lido, and its two main characters are key to this. I think most people will identify with Kate’s feelings of loneliness and anxiety in a big city, whether or not they’ve experienced it for themselves, and how she perceives other people’s lives either through social media or thanks to family dynamics closer to home. Or they’ll feel for the character of recently-widowed Rosemary, her love of the lido closely linked to that of her husband, the water giving her a freedom and grace she no longer feels on land, and the ways in which she touches the lives of those around her. She made me hope that everyone has at least one Rosemary in their lives. I know I do, and I’m grateful for them. They know who they are.

It didn’t take me long before I was willing both of these women on to succeed in their personal battles, as well as the more publicly-fought fight to save the lido. Around these two, Libby Page sketches in a community of people: some are more successfully done than others. I didn’t quite get a handle on Phil the paper’s editor, Jay the photographer or Geoff the lido manager but this wasn’t a major issue. They’re secondary characters and others such as Ahmed, Frank and Jermaine and their dog Sprout, Hope and especially George more than make up for it. In fact, George made a surprising impact on me for someone who died before the book opens. He comes back to life on the page, as Rosemary relives their relationship. Read more

Book Review: I Still Dream by James Smythe

James Smythe’s latest novel I Still Dream is the compelling story of a reclusive Internet coding prodigy, her missing father, corporate ambition, love, loss and creation which begins steeped in hormones and nostalgia but becomes scarily prescient.

1997. 17-year-old Laura Bow has invented a rudimentary artificial intelligence, and named it Organon. At first it’s intended to be a sounding-board for her teenage frustrations, a surrogate best friend; but as she grows older, Organon grows with her.

As the world becomes a very different place, technology changes the way we live, love and die; massive corporations develop rival intelligences to Laura’s, ones without safety barriers or morals; and Laura is forced to decide whether to share her creation with the world. If it falls into the wrong hands, she knows, its power could be abused. But what if Organon is the only thing that can stop humanity from hurting itself irreparably? 

If you’re reading this, James Smythe’s latest novel will almost certainly strike a chord with you. He takes the reader on a trip which starts in nostalgia, or the bedroom of a troubled teen and the heady early days of the Internet, and travels forwards through our present-day lives, with all our reliance on social media and our devices, and on into a possible future, and life with AI. It’s a novel which is both timely in light of very recent events and one that’s alarmingly prescient. It might make you re-evaluate your online life and how secure you think you and your information are along the way but it’s also very much a story about a daughter missing her father and the connections we make in life.

Full of humanity and vulnerability, I Still Dream looks at our need to communicate and share our lives with others, despite our hopes, dreams, fears and secrets exposing us once shared. I thought I Still Dream was a deeply moving look at intelligence, both real and artificial, and creativity, and how while we might hope and aspire to use them for altruistic purposes, they’ll also attract the attention of more commercial forces wanting to harnass and ultimately exploit them.

It is also a moving story about the impact someone’s absence from our life can have on us, what makes us human and whether or not something we create can ever be a replacement for that. I Still Dream is very much a novel of and for our times. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it without hesitation.

I Still Dream by James Smythe is published by The Borough Press, a Harper Collins imprint. It is published as an audiobook and ebook and in hardback on 5th April 2018. You can pre-order it at Amazon UK, Audible UK, Foyles, Hive (supporting your local independent bookshop), Waterstones and Wordery. For more info on James Smythe and his books, check out his Author Website or follow him on Twitter.

My thanks to the publisher and Lovereading UK for providing me with a review copy. This review will also appear on the Lovereading UK website here.  

Croeso. Welcome to Nut Press.

This is the online home of Kathryn Eastman, book squirrel, lawyer and writer. I’m a rugby-loving, tea-drinking chocoholic, who lives on a hill, that wanted to be a mountain, in Wales.

The Nut Press is full of book reviews, chocolate tasting, adventures with squirrels, a lot of tea drinking, and a snoring pussy cat, among other things. Oh, and very occasionally, some writing gets done.

Check out the latest Blog Posts or read a Short Story.

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