The Switch blurb:
On a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena 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…
A life swap seems the perfect solution.
But with a rabble of unruly OAPs to contend with, as well as the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – local school teacher, Leena learns that switching lives isn’t straightforward. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, and with the online dating scene. But is her perfect match nearer to home than she first thought?
This book is perfectly adorable. It’s got such a great mix of hilariously funny, heart wrenching sadness, poignant thoughtfulness, and feel-good romance, that it’s easy to see why Beth O’Leary is starting to be the talk of the book industry.
The characters in this story are amazing, and have such depth to them. Even the small side characters have nuance, which could be hard to pull off in a book this short; however O’Leary really pulls off that multi-dimensional feel to them.
- Leena is the burnt-out corporate lady, chasing her dreams and drowning herself in her work so that she doesn’t have to deal with her feelings from losing her sister. Leena’s friendships with the London crowd are sweet, but it’s her relationship with her grandmother that makes my heart sing.
- Eileen is amazing – I hope to be half the woman she is when I am seventy-nine!! I love how she just gets stuff done, but you still see those small moments of insecurity that plague us all. You also get to see that distinct view of her generation where you don’t get involved in other people’s real business, while simultaneously being all over their shallow business.
- The Hamleigh crew: Jackson, Betsy, Arnold, Nicola and Penelope all have their own complications going on in their lives, and I love that it isn’t swept aside to make way for Leena’s complications. In fact, I love that Leena makes all their situations worse to begin with, before realising that she just can’t “fix” everything with her Londoner ways, and the way she creates those burgeoning relationships makes me cry (good tears!!).
- The London crew: Bee, Fitz, Martha, Letitia and Sally also have their own shit going on. And it’s that typical city-life stuff of our generations. Neighbours? Yeah, we have them, but I couldn’t tell you anything about them. I love the little sense of community that Eileen introduces, and the way she ‘grandmothers’ them all into doing what is best for them. Her meddling has very unexpected results, but I think it’s all for the better!!
- Finally, I want to touch on Carla very quickly. Despite not actually being alive during this story, it made me so happy (and also very tearful) when she was brought to life by the other characters through their memories. Don’t get me wrong, I was very much Leena for the first 12 months when I lost my dad. I couldn’t even think about him without crying, but as time went on, it does get easier, and you keep them alive by sharing stories.
Ahh, the writing in this was so lovely – and it gave me FEELINGS!! It was easy to read, and the descriptions of the settings felt so real, it was so easy to get swept away by this story. It took me two days (while working full time) to read the first 80 pages, but then I just smashed the last 250 pages in a single sitting. Seriously, I don’t even think I got up to put the kettle on.
This book deals with some pretty heavy topics (domestic violence, cheating, cancer-related death, death of a family member, getting older without a support network), but it deals with them in a positive way without making too light of the situation. That is a very fine line to tread, and I think that O’Leary walked it very well. While none of it is on-page, it’s the support of the community in how best to help others and what they may or may not need in these times, and I think that’s one of the really beautiful things about this story.
To be honest, I think the only character who I felt was kind of flat was Marian – Eileen’s daughter and Leena’s mum. She didn’t quite exist as a plot device, but she wasn’t far off. I would have liked for her to get some more page time.
The grief made me cry a lot. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly brought up a lot of my own feelings and memories, and even though I have moved past that now, it was certainly a lot while I read it. But yeah, I went through a lot of tissues while reading this one!!
I can honestly say that I have been ‘Eileened’, and to be honest, that pretty much sums it up!!
I must say though, I did go out and purchase O’Leary’s debut The Flat Share after reading this, and I can’t wait to get to it soon!!
Recommended for: fans of Bridget Jones (books and movies), Melina Marchetta, Rainbow Rowell and Talia Hibbert.
Thank you to Hachette Australia for providing me a free copy to review.
All thoughts and opinions are my own.