Title: The Switch
Published: April 2020
Publisher: Quercus Books
Genre: Women’s Fiction
I received a copy of The Switch from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Eileen is sick of being 79.
Leena’s tired of life in her twenties.
Maybe it’s time they swapped places…
When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.
Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.
Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn’t as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?
Beth O’Leary’s second novel, The Switch, is the heart-warming story of two women, at different stages of their lives, trying to find the peace and happiness they’re both seeking. Leena is in her twenties, and climbing her career ladder until she’s forced to take time off after blowing a big presentation. She escapes to her grandmother, Eileen’s house, and suggests that she and her grandmother swap homes for a few months. Leena needs a break and Eileen, newly single and looking for a second chance at love, wants to know what it’s like to live in a bigger city. Both of them experience the ups and downs of romantic entanglement and both have to decide if what they’re looking for might not be in the place they most expect to find it.
I really love this book. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but it was so warm and friendly and cozy that it didn’t really matter. It’s the perfect book for cuddling up on the couch with a cup of tea and a blanket and losing yourself in Leena and Eileen’s lives for a while.
Both characters were very likeable. Leena, representing the twenty-something, career-focused woman is easily relatable in her hopes and dreams, but also in he anxiety. She, and her family, have been through a lot and she has a strained relationship with her mother as a result. Her guiding force is Eileen, who holds the family together almost by sheer force a will. Her presence and advice is enough to temper Leena and the two compliment each other wonderfully.
By contrast to Leena, Eileen is a force of nature – she’s lived in a small town her whole life and she’s a huge part of the community there. By choosing to leave and spend time living in her granddaughters apartment in the city, she’s making a choice for herself for a change, and she’s determined to do it in style. I loved seeing how Eileen fit herself into the lives of Leena’s roommates and friends and how she was not only a grandmotherly figure in their lives, but how she discovered herself in them, too.
The romantic relationships that develop and unfold in the story are wonderful. Both Leena and Eileen have their own set of expectations that are constantly being challenged by the most unlikely of sources. There’s love and heartbreak and love again and the whole thing was just beautifully told.
It was a great pleasure to read The Switch and I look forward to Beth O’Leary’s future books. (Now excuse me as I go off to read The Flatshare!)