The Switch by Beth O’Leary

This fun, light hearted book has lovely characters and a deeper meaning underneath the humour.

Leena is too young to feel stuck.
Eileen is too old to start over.
Ma
ybe it’s time for The Switch…
Ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Newly single and about to turn eighty, Eileen would like a second chance at love. But her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen… So Leena proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love, and L Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire.
But with a rabble of unruly OAPs to contend with, as well as the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – local schoolteacher, 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?

Firstly, the premise of this book alone is hilarious. When Leena and Eileen switch lives, it’s such a unique and ‘out there’ idea, but it sets the tone for the book to be a journey full of humour. I loved both women, they were funny, confident and caring in their own way. They contrasted each other but also clearly cared for and looked after each other.

The familial love is not the only kind of love here – this is a romance story and both women, whether they intend to or not, create other meaningful relationships during the switch. Eileen’s hilarious relationship with Leena’s friends and housemates when she moves to London had me chuckling at times. I loved her no-nonsense attitude and instinct to protect the younger adults. Her desire to have a true London adventure was both entertaining and unbearably sweet. She is a true young-at-heart person and some of the escapades she got up to were really funny. However, this was also about Eileen rediscovering what makes her happy and it was lovely to see her journey. I really liked the project she set herself in London (I don’t want to give too much away!) and her dating life was something I was really rooting for throughout.

Leena’s journey on the other hand, although less entertaining in a way, was equally as meaningful. From her relationship with her mum, dealing with grief, managing the village way of life and working out her relationship, Leena’s journey was full of ups and downs. I really felt for Leena, I so wanted her to succeed at everything and she was a character I connected with. I loved her determination at times, especially when it came to village matters. It was really funny, I have to admit, seeing her battle Betty and Archie. However it also proved that friendships are not set by ages and that actually some of the most meaningful friendships are inter-generational. Leena’s personal journey with grief however, contrasted sharply with the humorous moments in this book and there were times when it was truly heartbreaking. What this book highlighted is that grief shouldn’t be hidden away and that people can unite in their grief, turning memories into a positive thing.

The ending to this was delightful. Both women came to the end of their journey, and the end of the switch, stronger and happier. The message to pursue what makes you happy, in your romantic life, work life and friendships, is loud and clear. This book is inspiring and joyful, but it doesn’t shy away from the difficult moments. It’s an absolute must-read.

The Switch
Beth O’Leary
Quercus, 16th April 2020

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