Published by Quercus
Publication date – 16 April 2020
Source – review copy
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?
When Leena blows a major presentation at work she finds herself on two months leave. At a loss, she travels to Yorkshire to see her grandmother Eileen. When she find’s Eileen’s list of potential new love interests, limited in the small village, she suggests that Eileen go to London for two months. She could enter the dating scene in the capital and Leena could stay behind and look after Eileen’s tasks. Then they could swap back. With Eileen on board, neither of them could imagine what would happen during The Switch.
From the first page I knew I would love this book. That love grew the more I read until I reluctantly turned the final page. There is a warmth that emanates from the pages, that engulfs the reader and makes them want to remain curled up with the book.
There are a whole host of wonderful characters that fill the pages of The Switch. Eileen is the person I hope to be when I grow up. Feisty, kind, considerate of others, she does the right thing automatically. She doesn’t feel her age or that at 79 she should be held back from anything, including finding love. Her Yorkshire ways, being used to talking to neighbours, having a different perspective on life, radically changes the lives of Leena’s flatmates and fellow residents.
Leena is a perfectionist and automatically gravitates towards the practical. Research is her way of copying. So when she finds that her coping mechanisms haven’t worked she finds herself floundering. It is her idea to swap places with her grandmother. Eileen can go looking for love and Leena can perhaps finally face her sister’s death.
The village is populated by people who like to know each others business. They think they know everything about everyone but as they soon discover that isn’t the case. Leena opens them up to new ways of thinking and that they don’t always know their neighbours as well as they think they do.
Back in London, very much the opposite is the case. The residents of Leena’s building don’t know each other, do not speak. That is until Eileen comes along and makes them. They discover much more about themselves in the process too.
Then there is Jackson. The step son of Eileen’s next door neighbour Arnold. The same next door neighbour with whom Eileen has had a battle for the last 40 years. He befuddles Leena, who is not used to befuddlement. Watching the relationship change and grow between the two was a joy to read.
In fact, the whole book is a joy to read. And sometimes we all need to read a little joy.
Beth O’Leary is fast becoming one of my new favourite authors. I can’t wait to see what she pens next. Highly recommended.
Practically perfect in every way. Highly recommended.