Blurb from Goodreads
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?
Last year (Jan 2019) I had the good fortune of reading Beth O’Leary’s debut novel, The Flatshare, as an ARC from NetGalley and it was a book that really gave me great hope in her abilities as a writer because she managed to find a fresh and unique spin on the romantic dramedy genre of fiction…
And with this new novel The Switch she has once again shown that she is a brilliant storyteller in this area.
I loved this book.
Utterly loved it.
It gave me all the feels I could ever have hoped for and I genuinely squeaked with joy when I closed my kindle on the last page. It’s rare that a writer comes along that knows how to marry memorable characters with a warm, inviting storyline and that also knows how to sprinkle it with the right touch of both bittersweet emotion and romance.
But that’s exactly what I got from The Switch.
I completely lost myself in this book: I giggled like a little schoolgirl, I brushed away delicate tears…. I just loved it! Utter feel-good central!!!!
The premise follows a grandmother, Eileen Cotton and her granddaughter Leena who agree to swap lives for a number of months.
Seventy something year old Eileen needs to jazz up her life and find a new love after splitting from her difficult husband Wade. So she comes to London and moves into her granddaughter Leena’s flat complete with her flatmates Fitz and heavily pregnant Martha. Leena’s best friend Bee also becomes besties with Eileen and together with this cast of characters Eileen gets involved in the world of online dating, but more importantly, she brings the sense of community she had in her Yorkshire village to London and makes it her mission to bring together isolated older Londoners to form a little club of sorts.
This might sound a little like something you’ve read before but honestly it’s the characters that make this book. In Eileen Cotton O’Leary has created a most lively and charming character. She has this wonderful sparkle and joie de vivre that practically bounces off the page and I was 100% invested in her storyline. Definitely going to feature in my list of favourite fictional characters of 2020 for sure!
So while Eileen is off living in London her granddaughter Leena moves into her home in her small village in the Yorkshire Dales. Leena is on an enforced sabbatical from her job and to help take her mind off this, her grandmother has left a long list of errands and activities that she needs to take part in. Including walking local hottie Jackson’s exuberant dog Hank, getting involved in the neighbourhood watch with the most wonderful array of eccentric pensioners including my fav Basil and Eileen’s best friend Betsy, and helping to organise the annual village May Day celebrations. But my fav interactions on Leena’s side of the story were her getting to know grumpy Arthur next door…gosh I loved that crotchety old timer!!
But the real emotional centre point of the story comes from the absence that Leena feels in her life due to the death of her sister Carla from cancer prior to the novel’s start point. The grief and anger that stems from this loss is what has driven Leena to burning the candle at both ends at work and has also put an enormous wedge into the relationship she has with her mother Marian (who also lives in this Yorkshire village). This in turn has deeply affected Eileen who hates to see her daughter and granddaughter not getting along.
Once or twice this part of the story bordered on a little too much melodrama but it also served to ground the novel and was the real measure of how far Leena had become a different person since her sister’s illness and death. And it was through this storyline that Leena experienced growth of character and ultimately gave this novel an incredibly satisfying endpoint.
There were a lot of other plot lines running through the novel that made the whole storyline of these two women very entertaining, and kept me turning those pages as quickly as I could! These other plot lines also imbued the book with a real sense of community as so many of the side characters were involved in these more minor storylines.
I thoroughly enjoyed this read and am rating it four and a half stars rounded up to five. After this I really can’t wait to read Beth O’Leary’s next novel. She has 100% just become an auto-buy author for me.
An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Quercus, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Publishing: April 30th 2020