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?
Have I got the book for you this week! If you’re looking for something uplifting, a read you can really relax into, then you don’t need to search any more, The Switch is the perfect remedy to cure #lockdownloneliness!
I’m not going to lie, I did go into this with high expectations. I loved Beth O’Leary’s debut novel The Flatshare so much, it being one of the biggest surprises of last year for me, so where does this leave this novel? Maybe it’s not as swoonworthy as The Flatshare because a lot of the story’s progress is about developing friendships whereas in the first novel you felt the excitement for a blooming romance (through notes) between two people but I have to say that I was invested in the characters again and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.
The author chose another format and a completely different story to tell in her second novel, not about two strangers of the opposite sex this time, but rather two main characters Eileen and Leena (well actually also Eileen but lucky the author gave her a nickname here) with about 50 years of an age difference and she made the right move to choose a very different relationship.
So, the women in this novel step into each other’s lives while still very much being themselves and I must say I really love these type of tropes (I’m still a fan of The Holiday starring Cameron Diaz) and the novel gave off a little bit of that vibe of the movie. It was refreshing to see 79-year old Eileen dipping her toes into the world of online dating in the bustling city and to see her granddaughter Leena at the same time in the rural countryside trying to take the local neighbourhood committee serious, to get invested there and roll with the slow life, as well as take care of her mum who she hasn’t been in contact with after her sister died.
The story had enough drive on both sides and I was never bored, even if the neighbourhood watches issues were not really crucial to start with, but it’s more about the people instead of the issues of course and getting to know them and the feeling that they are looking out for each other. If I’m really honest I think for once that I liked the part of the older Eileen with her multiple love interests maybe a little bit more – she’s far from a cliché for her age – because it’s always interesting how someone deals with being dropped into a totally different world, although Leena and grumpy next door neighbour Arnold were quite entertaining too and it was so nice to see them both softening up to each other.
The Switch is a story of one closely knitted community and another community that is about to be changed forever. A few of the themes involved in this novel are love and friendship, reconnecting with people, being forgiving, and especially finding yourself again or should I say accepting that you can’t sometimes be the person you were but that you are a new you.
Beth O’Leary has proven with this sequel that she’s definitely here to stay and her name belongs to be mentioned in the lists with Lucy Dillon, Jojo Moyes and so many others. She’s a brilliant author and if you want a novel to give you a warm fuzzy feeling and a satisfactory smile then I definitely recommend both of her novels. I hope we don’t have to wait too long for her third one now :-).
I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher Quercus Books via Netgalley. This is still my honest opinion.