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Mornings with Rosemary



About The Book

The international bestselling debut about friendship and love—featuring the life-changing relationship between an anxious young reporter and an eighty-six-year-old lifelong swimmer that “follows in the footsteps of the enormously popular A Man Called Ove…charming and heartwarming” (Kirkus Reviews).

We’re never too old to make new friends—or make a difference.

Rosemary Peterson has lived in Brixton, London, all her life, but everything is changing.

The library where she used to work has closed. The family grocery store has become a trendy bar. And now the lido, an outdoor pool where she’s swum daily since its opening, is threatened with closure by a local housing developer. It was at the lido that Rosemary escaped the devastation of World War II; here she fell in love with her husband, George; here she found community during her marriage and since George’s death.

Twentysomething Kate Matthews has moved to Brixton and feels desperately alone. A once-promising writer, she now covers forgettable stories for her local paper. That is, until she’s assigned to write about the lido’s closing. Soon Kate’s portrait of the pool focuses on a singular woman: Rosemary. And as Rosemary slowly opens up to Kate, both women are nourished and transformed in ways they never thought possible.

“Charming [and] an unusually poignant tale of married love” (The Washington Post), Mornings with Rosemary is a feel-good novel that captures the heart and spirit of a community across generations—an irresistible tale of love, loss, aging, and friendship.

*Originally published as The Lido


Mornings with Rosemary CHAPTER 1

Step out of Brixton underground station and it is a carnival of steel drums, the white noise of traffic, and that man on the corner shouting, “God loves you,” even to the unlovable.

“Tickets for the Brixton Academy tonight,” yells a ticket tout at the station entrance. “Buying and selling, tickets for the Brixton Academy!” Commuters shake their heads at promoters and preachers who try to thrust leaflets into their clenched hands. You push through the crowds and walk past the Rastafarian selling incense and records outside Starbucks. Across the road is Morleys, the independent department store that has stood on the street for years. “Love Brixton” glows in neon lights in the nearby window of TK Maxx.

Today spring flowers bloom in buckets at the flower stand: daffodils, tulips, and fat peonies. The florist is an old man in a dark green apron with soil under his nails and a gold chain around his neck. Whatever the weather, he sells “Sorry”s and “I love you”s at a reasonable price. Wrap it in brown paper and tie it up with ribbon.

Next to the station is Electric Avenue: it heaves with people and market stalls selling everything from vegetables to phone chargers. The air smells of sweet melons and the tang of fish. The fish lie on beds of ice, turning it from white to pink throughout the day and reminding you that you should never eat pink snow either.

Market traders fling prices across the street at each other, discounts thrown like Frisbees. Catch it quick and throw it back.

“Three for a tenner, threeforatenner.”

“Don’t miss out, three for a fiver, THREEFORAFIVER.”

“Three for a fiver? I’ve got five for a fiver!”

On the other side of the street Kate walks quickly home from her job as a journalist at the Brixton Chronicle. She doesn’t have time to examine vegetables. Or maybe she just wouldn’t know what to look for. It may be spring, but Kate is living under a cloud. It follows her wherever she goes, and however hard she tries she can’t seem to outrun it. She weaves through the crowds, desperate to make it back to her house and to close the door behind her and climb into bed. When she is not at work, her bed is where she spends most of her time. On the street, she attempts to block out the sounds around her, trying not to let them fill her up and overwhelm her. She keeps her head down and focuses on the pavement.

“Excuse me,” she says, stepping past a plump elderly woman without looking up.

“Sorry,” says Rosemary, letting Kate pass. She watches the back of the young woman hurrying away—the woman is petite with a midlength light brown ponytail flicking behind her with the speed of her walk. Rosemary smiles, remembering what it was like to be in a rush. At eighty-six, she rarely goes anywhere fast. Instead she carries her shopping and walks slowly away from the market and toward her flat on the edge of Brockwell Park. She is dressed plainly but neatly in trousers, comfortable shoes, and a spring mackintosh, her thin, wavy gray hair pulled back from her face and secured with a clip. Over time her body has changed to the point that she barely recognizes it anymore, but her eyes are still the same—bright blue and smiling even when her mouth isn’t.

Today is Rosemary’s shopping day. She has made the rounds at all her favorite shops and stalls, said hello to Ellis the fruit and veg man, and collected her weekly brown bag of food. She has popped into the secondhand bookshop run by Frank and his partner, Jermaine. The three of them chatted for a while, Rosemary sharing the window seat with their golden retriever, Sprout, and looking along the shelves for something new or something she might have missed last week. She likes stopping there and breathing in the musty old smell of hundreds of books.

After the bookshop, Rosemary steps inside Brixton Village and is hit by the smell of cooking spices and the noise of people talking and eating at tables in the passageways—the same noises and smells she has become accustomed to through her weekly visits. The market is airy and some restaurants provide blankets that people drape over their shoulders or laps as they eat. Strings of lights hang from the high ceiling, making it feel like a Christmas market even in the spring.

To Rosemary and her friend Hope, whom she meets here for a weekly catch-up and slice of cake, it’s still Granville Arcade, the only place where Hope could find the Caribbean foods she so missed when she first moved to Brixton when she was twelve. It is now filled with independent restaurants, shops, and stallholders. The change still unsettles them but they like the coffee shop where the young barista knows their orders and starts making them as soon as he sees them approaching through the window. And the cake is delicious. Hope speaks proudly about her granddaughter, Aiesha, and her daughter, Jamila—busy as usual with work. When Jamila passed her final medical exams, Rosemary had sent her flowers with a card that read, “Dear Doctor . . .”

Hope and Rosemary reminisce about when they worked in the library.

“Do you remember the first time Robert plucked up the courage to ask you out?” says Rosemary with a laugh. Hope’s husband, Robert, had been a bus driver before retiring a few years ago, and when they were both young he would visit the library every few days after his shift, looking around eagerly for Hope’s hourglass figure.

“It took him long enough,” Hope says, laughing. “I’ll always remember how you used to disappear up a ladder and stack books when he was there so he’d be forced to speak to me.”

The two women chuckle together, both of them relishing this part of their week. But now Rosemary’s feet hurt and she is ready to be home.

“Same time next week?” says Rosemary as they part, hugging her friend and realizing that at sixty-eight, Hope, too, is now an old woman. She squeezes her a little tighter—to Rosemary she will always be the cheerful young girl who started at the library when she was eighteen and who Rosemary took under her wing.

“Same time next week,” says Hope, giving a final wave as she turns off down the street to collect Aiesha from school (the favorite part of her day).

Now, Rosemary passes the queues for the bus stops and crosses the junction where the old cinema stands on the corner, the names of this week’s films spelled out in white letters on the black board. Opposite is a large square where elderly men sit in chairs and smoke while teenagers skateboard around them.

As she gets farther away from the station, shops turn into terraced houses and blocks of flats. Eventually she reaches the Hootananny, the rickety old pub famous for its live music. A strong, sweet smell floats from the benches outside where people sit and drink pints and smoke. Here she turns left and follows the road that wraps around the edge of the park toward the mid-rise building where she lives.

The lift, often broken, is working and she is relieved.

Rosemary has lived in the flat on the third floor for most of her life. She moved there with her husband, George, in 1950 when the building was newly built and they were newly married. The front door leads straight into the living room, where the most noticeable thing is the bookshelf that runs the full length of the right-hand wall.

The kitchen next to it fits a table, two chairs, and a television that rests on the washing machine. When Rosemary has unpacked her shopping, she crosses the living room, opens the doors, and steps onto the balcony. Her navy swimsuit hangs from the washing line like a flag. There are plants out here: just a few potted lavender, nothing too extravagant—it wouldn’t suit her. Rosemary can see Brockwell Park stretching ahead of her, taking her far from the noise and the crowds at Electric Avenue.

Spring is in bloom and the park wears a new green coat. There are the tennis courts, a garden, and a small hill with an old house that used to be a manor and is now used for events and a concession selling ice cream and snacks to sticky-fingered children. Two sets of train tracks loop around the park: the real one and a miniature one that is only for the summer and very small children. The sun is just starting to set and Rosemary can see people, enjoying the lengthening days. Runners make their way up the hill and down again. And on the edge of the park closest to her balcony a low redbrick building wraps its arms around a perfect blue rectangle of water. The pool is striped with ropes that split the lanes and she can see bright towels on the decking. Swimmers float in the water like petals. It is a place she knows well. It is the lido, her lido.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Lido includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Libby Page. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Kate is a twenty-six-year-old who works for a local paper in Brixton, London, covering forgettable 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 when she was a child. The lido has been a cornerstone of nearly every part of Rosemary’s life.

But when a local developer attempts to buy the lido and replace it with 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 she pieces together portraits of the pool and 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 begins to open up to Kate, transforming them both in ways they never knew possible.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Describe the opening of The Lido. How does it establish Brixton as a character? Do the interludes throughout the novel of life there help you to understand the community better? What do you think of Brixton? Is it somewhere you could see yourself living?

2. When Kate is first introduced to the reader, she is described as anxious, “living under a cloud. It follows her wherever she goes, and however hard she tries she can’t seem to outrun it” (2). What was your first impression of her? What do you think of the life she creates for herself in Brixton? Does she seem happy to you? Why or why not?

3. Describe your first impression of Rosemary? Do you like her? Rosemary is acutely aware of the results of aging, from the aches in her knees to the free bus card that she is now eligible to receive. Both are “a part of her life now that she resents. She still always pays for her bus ticket, on principle” (14). What does this detail tell you about Rosemary? In what other ways does she attempt to exert control over the aging process?

4. Rosemary agrees to allow Kate to interview her about the lido on the condition that Kate goes for a swim. What prompts Rosemary to require this? How does swimming in the lido expand Kate’s view of it? Would you have agreed to Rosemary’s request?

5. Describe Kate’s relationship with her sister. Is Erin a good older sister to Kate? Why or why not? Why do you think Kate is nervous about introducing Erin to Rosemary? What do the two women think of each other?

6. Rosemary and George are described as “a couple, like the quotation marks around a sentence” (73). Is this an apt description? How would you characterize Rosemary and George’s relationship? Do you think it was a solid one? Why or why not? How did they compliment each other?

7. The early articles that Kate writes for the Brixton Chronicle are “not stories that she would show the tutors who taught her journalism master’s classes” and the fact that her mother collects them in a scrapbook “makes it even worse” (9). Describe the Kate’s articles. Why is she ashamed of them? Why do you think her mother’s saving them compounds Kate’s feelings? Do you think she is a good journalist? Explain your answer. What skills does her job require?

8. When Kate was studying to be a journalist, she struggled to take the words of her classmates “as a comment on something she had created outside of herself, rather than a personal attack” (210). Is this still true of Kate? One of her colleagues tells her that she is too personally invested in her stories. Do you agree? How does this affect Kate’s stories?

9. When Kate thinks of Erin and her life “she feels left behind, as though Erin has run off into the distance and Kate is left frozen on the starting line terrified by the sound of the gun marking the start of the race” (55). Compare Kate’s view of Erin’s life with its reality. Are there any issues that Erin struggles with? What does Erin think of Kate? What causes the two to open up to each other? Were you surprised by any of their disclosures?

10. Rosemary tells Kate, “When you’re my age you’ll understand. . . . You begin to miss yourself” (62). What does Rosemary mean? What parts of herself does she miss most?

11. Why is Rosemary initially reluctant to reach out for help in saving the lido? What changes her mind? Describe the people who join or aid the protests to save the lido. Do any of them surprise you? Which ones and why? What reasons do the others have for helping?

12. While Kate doesn’t know Jay particularly well “his strawberry blond hair and kind face are part of the fabric of her days at the paper and somehow soothing” (119). How is Jay able to calm Kate? What role does he play in the protests? Why is the lido important to him?

13. When asked about why the lido is important to her, Rosemary “can’t begin to say everything so instead she says the start of the truth” (64). Discuss some of the reasons the lido is so important to Rosemary and to the community of Brixton. If Kate were asked the same question, what do you think her answer would be? Are there any places in your life that are as important to you as the lido is to Rosemary and Kate? Tell your book club about them.

14. What are some of the ways that the residents of Brixton attempt to save the lido? How do Kate’s and Jay’s professional roles influence their methods of protest? Were there any that you thought were particularly successful? Which ones and why? How would you have protested to save the lido if you were in Kate’s position?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. If possible, go swimming with your book club. What was this like? Did you find it as refreshing as Rosemary does or as calming as Kate does? Why do you think being in the water helps both women?

2. When Rosemary and George begin living together, she asks him “how shall we organize the books? . . . Shall we have a shelf each?” (103). Do you organize your books in any special way? If so, tell your book club about your method.

3. The Lido has been optioned for a film. Who would you cast as Kate? As Rosemary? How would you structure the film?

4. The Lido has been compared to A Man Called Ove. Read both books with your book club and discuss them, comparing and contrasting the themes of each. In what ways were they similar? Do you think that Rosemary and Ove were alike? If so, how?

A Conversation with Libby Page

Congratulations on the publication of The Lido! What was the most rewarding part of publishing your debut novel? Was there any aspect that surprised you?

Thank you! I have dreamed of being an author since I was around six years old, so having that dream come true has been an amazing experience. I quit my job in marketing shortly after receiving my publishing deal, and I feel so lucky to now be able to spend all my time doing the thing that I love. I didn’t really know much about the publishing process when I wrote my book, so it has all been a huge learning experience for me.

For Kate, “Seeing her own name . . . printed alongside her article in the Guardian feels surreal but thrilling” (214). Before becoming a novelist, you also worked as a journalist there. Can you tell us about the first time you saw your name in print?

I actually first saw my name in print when I was very young. As a child I entered every writing competition I could find and subscribed to a magazine for young writers. I entered far more competitions that I won, but when I first saw a poem I had written in the magazine it really inspired me. It made me believe that if I loved writing as much as I did, and worked really hard at it, that maybe one day I might be able to do something as exciting as having my own book published. I feel so grateful for those early experiences that fueled my drive to write.

Like you, Kate is both a swimmer and journalist. Is this where the similarities end? Are there any autobiographical elements in your story?

I think most writers draw on their own experiences in some way to fuel their writing. Although Kate is very different to me in many ways, there are certainly aspects of my life that I used as inspiration for my writing. I moved to London from a small town (actually much smaller than Bristol, where Kate is from) so know what it feels like to arrive in a big city and struggle to find your feet. I think there is a perception that your early twenties are going to be the best years of your life, but I know for myself and many of my friends there were also lots of stressful elements in trying to find our way in the world. That was definitely something I wanted to explore in my book, and I hope that anyone who may have had a similar experience is able to relate and realize they are not alone.

Can you tell us about your writing process? The Lido is intricately plotted, moving seamlessly between past and present and between Kate and Rosemary’s stories. Did you plot out the entire book before you began writing it?

I spent about six months prior to writing The Lido planning the story. This didn’t mean plotting the entire book; instead I wanted to really flesh out the characters and the themes in the story before starting to write. That way it meant that the characters and the story were able to take themselves in their own direction to a certain extent. That said, I had the idea for the final line of my book very early on. I found that it helped to know the point that I was working towards.

Your descriptions of life in Brixton from the lido to the market stalls are incredibly vivid and written with great affection. Did you base those descriptions on time spent at there? Do you still visit Brixton? Are there any other places in London that you love?

I lived in Brixton for a while as a student, and really fell in love with the area. It felt to me a very distinct community but also a community that was under threat. By the time I started writing the book I had actually moved to North London, but I drew on my fond memories of Brixton and went back regularly for inspiration. I do still spend time there and it will always hold a very special place in my heart. But one of the things I love about London is that there are always new places to discover. I now live in North East London and have enjoyed getting to know that area—from the River Lea that I run alongside most mornings to local community groups that I have become involved with. Some other favorite places in London include Hampstead Heath and the swimming ponds there, the canals in Little Venice, and the beautiful view from the top of Primrose Hill. I feel very lucky to live in this city!

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? Anything that you wished you knew?

My main advice would be to stick at it! I have wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember, but there were certainly times when I doubted I could actually make it happen. It took me a year to find a literary agent, and I was close to giving up when I found my now agent. I am so glad that I persevered. As writing is (usually!) a solo activity it can at times be quite isolating, so I would definitely recommend keeping friends and family close—I feel so grateful to have the support of my loved ones when I’m finding the writing tough, or just want someone to talk to about an idea. Also, don’t be afraid to step away from your writing if you’ve hit a block—I find some of my best ideas come when I am out for a walk or a swim and my mind has a bit more space to wander.

Similarly, do you have an advice to aspiring swimmers? Swimming in the lido brings a sense of peace to Rosemary and Kate. What would you like to tell your readers who are reluctant to take the plunge?

I actually only really learned how to swim a few years ago, so I would say it is never too late to discover a love of swimming! I learned to swim as a child but was never very confident in the water. A few years ago my sister, who is a strong swimmer, gave me some lessons and with a lot of practice I learned to improve my stroke and my confidence. Don’t be put off if you have to start small—I started being only able to manage a length or two at a time. For me swimming outdoors is more about the experience of being in the water than it is about swimming, so even a quick dip can feel really rewarding.

Both Kate’s and Rosemary’s first experiences swimming were particularly memorable to them. What was yours like? Did you swim in a local lido? If so, can you tell us about it?

As a young child we had a tiny local outdoor pool that we went to with my school. I don’t remember much about it other than it always feeling very cold! Throughout my childhood I enjoyed splashing in pools on holiday with my family, but it’s only as an adult that I’ve become a confident swimmer and really taken to the water.

What do you hope that readers take away from The Lido?

I hope that reading The Lido might make readers consider the value of places in their own community, whether it’s a local library, bookshop, or swimming pool. It’s easy to take these for granted, but I think our towns and cities would be so much sadder if such places no longer existed. They represent values of community and friendship that I believe are important to all of us as humans and are worth fighting for.

Are you working on anything now? Can you tell us about it?

I have been working on a second novel—the theme of which is still to be revealed! It is a standalone book, so not related to The Lido, but I hope that readers of The Lido will enjoy it too. Watch this space!

About The Author

Natalie Dawkins

Libby Page graduated from The London College of Fashion with a BA in fashion journalism before going on to work as a journalist at The Guardian. After writing, her second passion is outdoor swimming. Libby lives in London, where she enjoys finding new swimming spots and pockets of community within the city. Mornings with Rosemary (originally published as The Lido) is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter @LibbyPageWrites and Instagram @TheSwimmingSisters.

Product Details

  • Publisher: S&S/Marysue Rucci Books (June 4, 2019)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501182051

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