The Switch by Beth O’Leary
Publishing Date: 16th April 2020
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 400
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction
| Paperback (out on 21.01.2021)
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?
79 year old Eileen Cotton suddenly finds herself alone, as her husband Wade leaves her for another woman. She’s not grieving, oh no, she’s in need to jazz up her life and maybe find a new love, but – sadly – in her tiny village Hamleigh – in – Harksdale, there are slim pickings. Meanwhile, her workaholic grand – daughter Leena Cotton experiences a panic attack during a huge presentation for her company, so they order her to take two months leave. Not knowing what to do with her free time, she decides to visit her grandmother. After learning her grandmother’s dilemma, Leena suggest for them to swap places for eight weeks – she will move into her grandmother’s house, taking on all her chores, projects and responsibilities, while Eileen moves into Leena’s flat, together with her flatmates Fitz and Martha, and try to get her love life under control in London, the city of nearly nine million. Perfect plan, right? Or not?
Beth O’Leary has created living and breathing characters that I couldn’t help but immediately fell for. They feel so real and close to life, they’re witty and charming but they also make mistakes and jump to conclusions. And really, standing ovation to the author for creating Eileen, finally an older character who is wise and who has experienced so much in her life but IS NOT patronising, is not meh, is not all sugar – instead is full of humour, wisdom, is strong and quirky. I adored her.
The characters grow so much in this story, and not only our main ones but also the background bunch. They were all interesting and unforgettable, and their stories relatable and affecting, and you will quickly find yourself involved in their lives.
The author wasn’t shy of complicating the characters’ lives, making them difficult. Both of the Cotton women, as well as Leena’s mother and Eileen’s daughter, are in the throes of loss and grief and they don’t know how to process it, especially Leena, who estranged herself from her mother, inculpating her of everything what has happened. But she also gives them a breath of fresh air, new possibilities and chances, and also challenges that will give them the opportunity to come to terms with their grief. I really enjoyed the way the author tackled this particular part of the plot, showing how grief can affect even the most close knit family units and your mental health.
The storyline was simple, and yes, it does sound like something that you’ve seen/read before but it is one of the strengths of this book, and well, would you believe that something like this can happen? Beth O’Leary has written it with confidence, sprinkling the switch with tons of humour and emotions. While Eileen used her organisational skills in London, trying to establish the Silver Shoreditch Social Club and braving the world of internet dating, Leena is left to deal with not only with a long list of errands, projects and activities (like walking the local teacher Jackson’s quirky Labrador puppy, getting involved in the Neighbourhood Watch and organising the May Day celebrations), but also with Eileen’s friends who don’t immediately take to her own ideas, and they include the greatest bunch of eclectic, eccentric and chaotic pensioners who also have their own, sometimes very deep and serious, problems.
There are many subplots running through the novel but you will never lose the plot or feel confused – oh no, they made the novel so much more deeper, entertaining and thought – provoking. Yes, it brilliantly incorporated some more serious issues, and I’m not only thinking about grief and loss but also looking at loneliness, domestic abuse, mental health and cheating, handled with gentleness and sensitivity.
I can’t say that this book was as exceptionally wonderful as the author’s debut novel “The Flatshare” (this is the book I talked about in my B2 German exam, we were supposed to choose a topic and talk about it, and yes, I’ve chosen the one about my favourite book, and well, taking into consideration that I read over 120 books a year truly says something, don’t you think? Yes, I’ve got the best possible note in speaking, they couldn’t stop me talking about “The Flatshare”) but it was very, very close and in my opinion it fully deserves 5 big, fat stars – well, I at least didn’t want to miss a single word and I was absolutely, totally captured. But Beth O’Leary proved with her second novel that she can for sure write – moreover, she can write brilliant, refreshing books, that she has already found her unique, distinctive voice, and what have we all been reading before Beth O’Leary??? With this novel, she has really shown that she has found her place in our favourite genre and I (don’t want to sound ungrateful!) am already looking for her next offering.
“The Switch” is a book about love, family, loss and grief, friendship, stepping outside your own comfort zones and find the courage, and this all brilliantly intertwined with the lovely community spirit, that Beth O’Leary also managed to make special, genuine and honest without losing the feeling of a real tiny village where everybody knows everybody’s business.
It was heart-warming and uplifting and this kind of book when you want to read is as quickly as possible but you also don’t want it to end. I loved it, from the beginning to the end, it’s such a feel – good and uplifting read – highly recommended!