This Little Bag of Dreams

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,/How can we know the dancer from the dance?

Tag: Rebecca Gray

Blog Tour, Day 7: The Lido by Libby Page

Lido blog tour (002)

I have always wanted to go to a lido.

I know not why I haven’t.

There used to be one near me: Cliftonville Lido, in which Tracy Emin herself learned to swim.

But oddly, I don’t consider myself a particularly good swimmer.

I digress!  If you are a lido frequenter, or outdoor swimmer, or even if you can’t remember what chlorine smells like, you will find much of yourself in this delightful debut.  That’s the beauty of the novel: you can take from it what YOU want.  And that’s the way it should be: I’m not exactly shouting, ‘The author is dead!’ at you, as once was shouted at me in an Eton classroom, but the more scope there is for a reader to choose what to identify with, the better.  You may be a Kate; you may be a Rosemary.  You may be a George; you may be a Jay.  You  may be an Erin; you may be an Ahmed.

So The Lido – water novel! (Sorry, had to be done.)  Despite not being a massive fan of present tense prose, I adored this tale of journalist Kate battling loneliness in London.  Asked by her boss to cover the story of Brockwell Lido’s threatened closure, she finds an unlikely inspiration in the form of 86 year old widow Rosemary, who has swum at the lido all her life.  Slowly, she starts to live rather than merely survive: she cooks again, instead of preparing a ‘ping’ meal; she dips her toes, literally, in the lido; she throws herself into a cause bigger than herself.  And ultimately, that was the biggest success of the novel for me: that if you need saving, find a cause to fight for, and remember than only you can save you.

Anyone who has experienced the shakes, sweats and sheer terror of a panic attack will find consolation in Kate.  The fear grips her at the strangest of time and places, and that’s the thing about anxiety: it does not discriminate.  I have had a panic attack at work twice; the first time, I said I had toothache, the second time, I told no one.  Both times, I left and drove down to the sea.  Because it’s immensely comforting to find, at times of distress, something which is so much bigger than you and your anxiety, which has been there before you felt like this, and will be there afterwards.  Perhaps the sea is my lido.

But who is my Rosemary?  I had an actual Rosemary, in the shape of my A-Level Latin teacher.  She was frighteningly clever and Jean Brodie-esque, and I was one of her creme de la creme.  In some ways, she did a lot for me, but for reasons too private and complicated to mention here, she cannot be my Rosemary.  I’m going to swim against the tide here (sorry) and nominate my dad as my Rosemary.  He has been there for me at the best and the bleakest of times.  When I suffered crippling depression during my Finals, he came and slept on the floor of my poky university room.  When my heart was broken, he came and stayed at my house.  When I got a 2:1, he yelled triumphantly down the phone; the people of Coventry still complain of hearing problems.  My dad, who never had a dad and didn’t have much of a mother, has been there, unquestionably, all my life.

Thank you to Rebecca Gray at Orion for sending me the proof and inviting me to join this blog tour, and to Libby Page, who has stood up for all the infallible heroines.

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Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit

Fear Dirk Kurbjuweit

You’d die for your family.

But would you kill for them?

Fear is a fascinating novel to read in today’s climate of gun debate, and if you are interested in the real-life background which inspired Kurbjuweit, there is a great Guardian article by him here.  The situation in the novel is, of course, totally different from America’s horror story, but the ‘us against them’ trope is firmly relevant here.  When we rely on the law to solve our problems and the law fails us, what do we do?

Randolph Tiefenethaler lives with his wife and two children in a Berlin apartment.  Their life is largely pleasant: they love their children and are comfortably off due to Randolph’s architecture career.  However, their neighbour in the basement decides that they are sexually abusing their children.  What’s more, he is also in love with Randolph’s wife.  They seek legal advice and tell the police; they also offer to buy the neighbour’s apartment.  We are always being told that ‘money talks’.  But in Fear, ultimately, money means very little: it buys you neither peace nor happiness.  But a gun? Now you’re talking.   But who is to do the murder?  Randolph, a father of young children, or his elderly father, an avid collector of weapons?

The Australian edition of Fear

The ‘monster in the basement’ is not only their stalker neighbour, but also a metaphor for the couple’s various fears: for Randolph, that he does not love his wife anymore, that she is, in fact, abusing their children, and that he is becoming his father; for his wife, that Randolph is an abuser, that he does not love her anymore, and that she will never craft out a career for herself.

I was hoping, from seeing the cover, that Fear would be more a fast-paced, than psychological, thriller, and for me, the twist was unsurprising.  But is remains an original and brave work.

Fear works backwards, much like Amis’s Time’s Arrow.  It is not so much a whodunnit, as a whydunnit – indeed, some might call it a whydidyounotdoitsooner?  You will have to read the novel and decide for yourself what you think.