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?
The Switch is the charming multigenerational story of the Cotton family. Leena Cotton and her grandmother, Eileen Cotton, decide to switch places for two months: with Leena leaving London to live in her grandmother’s home located in a small village in the Yorkshire Dales, and Eileen going to live with Leena’s flat mates in London.
Both Cotton ladies represent identity loss. Eileen has woke up from her life of complacency that comes with living through habit, and realised she wants an adventure to find herself. And Leena represents a character who’s lost her way through grief, as well as having a strained relationship with her mother, Marian, and has buried herself under work to cope. This made both women relatable in their own right, and it was emotional to see their moments of realisation, their healing processes etc.
I enjoyed this story – it was mostly breezy and easy to read. It was such a cosy book, all the while dealing with serious problems like adultery, bereavement and depression. There were moments where Eileen really made me laugh. She was sassy and unabashedly shameless.
O’Leary captured the small village sentiment well, where everybody knows everybody’s business. There were supporting characters that were all well illustrated as to make them easily memorable, that is to say, as soon as they came into a scene, I wasn’t confused for a moment as to who they were. In fact, the supporting characters were probably my favourite thing about The Switch.
So, at the heart of The Switch is a sense of community and family values, that makes this a kaleidoscope of emotions to read: hurt, sympathy, elation, warmth and heart. It’s about human connection through family ties, neighbourly ties, romances and friendships in all the good and bad.
Leena’s earlier chapters were a little dull in comparison to Eileen’s, but this improved as the read went on. As well, I felt the happily ever after climax and epilogue could have been smoothed out more.
Another thing I have to praise was the clever use of other pieces of work, and British culture. I LOVED Eileen’s cats names! And I really loved the metaphorical roles Leena gave herself and Arnold.
Truly a heartwarming story about the journey of healing from bereavement and coping with life upheavals. Perfect for fans of Grace & Frankie and The Holiday, or if you’re simply looking for a pick me up read, The Switch won’t disappoint.
Thank you so much to Quercus Books and Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
The Switch by Beth O’Leary
Published April 2020
Genre: women’s fiction, click lit, romance, general fiction