I was rather late to the party with The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary and only got around to reading it earlier this year. I absolutely loved it: it’s on my Top Reads list for 2020 and Tiffy and Leon are characters who I will always remember. So could her new book The Switch live up to that? Well yes, yes it could and it’s also on my Top Reads list for this year!
The Switch is a multi-generational story featuring Leena and her grandma Eileen as well, to a lesser extent, Leena’s mum (and Eileen’s daughter) Marian. The story begins with high achiever Leena having a panic attack during an important presentation at work in London. Her boss insists she has two months off to rest and she goes to stay with her grandma in her tiny Yorkshire village hometown. Leena has been avoiding going home since a family bereavement led to a rift with her mum. Rather surprised to hear that her grandma is seeking love again at the age of 79 but with no suitable men in the village, the two women come to an arrangement to swap houses for two months.
I loved the way that both women adapted to their new and very different ways of life. Eileen has the time of her life connecting with various men through a dating app and proves that you are never too old for adventure. I liked the way that she brought her forthright village ways to London and ignored the usual ways of life of her London neighbours who rarely spoke and barely knew each other. Conversely, Leena had to get used to everyone knowing or wanting to know everyone’s business and to taking on the many tasks that her grandma carried out in the village.
What was great was that both women got so much more out of their switch experience that they could possibly have expected and also gave much more to their adopted communities than they probably thought they would do. Beth O’Leary just has this talent for creating wonderful characters who you will take to your heart and writes with such warmth and wit. I so enjoyed following Leena and Eileen on their adventures and watching all the women start to heal from the grief which Leena, at least, was trying to bury away. As Eileen says to Leena “…we all got a bit lost this last year, didn’t we?”
The Switch is funny, poignant and romantic and is definitely the kind of uplifting read I think we all need right now. Beth O’Leary is such an engaging and talented storyteller and I am looking forward to reading whatever she writes next. The Switch is a reminder to take chances, live life to the full and, to slightly misquote Leena, to be the best person you can be.
My thanks to the publishers Quercus for my review copy of the book via Netgalley. The Switch will be published in hardback, ebook and audiobook this Thursday 16th April. At these difficult times, if you are able to support an independent bookshop please do order your copy from there. Otherwise, you will find buying options for various retailers on the publisher’s website here: The Switch
From the back of the book
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?
About the author
Beth studied English at university before going into children’s publishing. She lives as close to the countryside as she can get while still being in reach of London, and wrote her first novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from work.
She is now writing novels full time, and if she’s not at her desk, you’ll usually find her curled up somewhere with a book, a cup of tea, and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather).