Having thoroughly enjoyed Beth O’Leary’s debut, The Flatshare, it was with a squeal of glee that I found myself with a copy of her next novel, The Switch, in my hands. In fact, it’s a mark of just how much I enjoyed The Flatshare that I didn’t even listen to one second to that whiny voice in my head reminding me that I frequently enjoy an author’s second offering much less than their first. Thankfully with The Switch, O’Leary continues with her fantastic storytelling and characters whose personalities jump off the page and into your imagination.
Leena is burnt out. Recuperating from the death of her sister, she has thrown herself into work and is now feeling the effects. Leena’s Grandma Eileen has been deserted by her husband and finds herself a Single Senior. What better way for both women to come to terms with the changes life has thrust upon them than to swap lives for two months? Eileen heads to London and with typical Yorkshire forthrightness, sets about putting right the lives of Leena’s flatmates, as well as coaxing out reclusive residents in the building. Leena takes over Eileen’s life in the Yorkshire Dales and this
was definitely my favourite side of the story. O’Leary presents the cosy nosiness of village life to perfection and the weekly Neighbourhood Watch meetings satisfied my appetite for quirky characters with ease.
I will continue to squeal excitedly when I see a new Beth O’Leary novel, she is fast becoming one of my favourite authors.
The Switch is even better than The Flatshare. I absolutely adored it. I hadn’t even got to page twenty before Beth O’Leary had made me both shed a tear and laugh aloud and the rest of the story just got better and better.
The plot premise is hugely entertaining as Leena and Eileen swap places; with the concept of walking in another’s shoes, both literally and metaphorically, affording insight into character, society and life, in a fabulous blend of storytelling. It appealed to me that Leena can have a stimulating life away from London just as much as Eileen can leave her sheltered home village, and explore, in spite of approaching her eighties. There’s a perfect balance between the two narratives. It’s so wonderful to have an older protagonist in Eileen who isn’t seen as a little old lady, but rather as one who has physical and emotional strength and a life to live. Both Leena and Eileen walked straight into my heart from the moment they appeared on the page and stayed there because, despite their age differences, they seemed to represent a kind of Everywoman that any reader could relate to.
I’m not usually a fan of books where there are several minor characters, but in The Switch all the people are so vivid and engaging that this story simply wouldn’t have worked without them. They are brilliantly depicted so that each individual is clear and realistic. I might have been ever so slightly in love with one or two of them myself but I don’t want to say more for fear of spoiling the story.
The Switch might be defined as light, uplifting, women’s fiction, but that doesn’t prevent Beth O’Leary weaving in some weighty themes too. There’s a sensitive exploration of grief and loss, of love and loyalty, family and friendship written with humour and finesse that gives added depth and makes The Switch even more wonderful to read. The message that we all need human contact underpins the narrative with subtlety whilst being utterly convincing. I thought Beth O’Leary was a genius in illustrating how prickliness and surly behaviour might be masking a vulnerability and need. Her understanding and depiction of what a thriving community actually is and how we can make a better world for others at the same time as improving our own lives is inspiring and heartwarming.
I think The Switch is pure joy in book form and I loved it. I finished it feeling as if my life had been enhanced by its reading, that I had been brilliantly entertained and that someone had switched on sunshine so that I had been left with a warm glow. Wonderful.
What an amazing read! I loved it! I thought Beth O’Leary’s first novel The Flatshare was good, but her second is excellent and even better. It kept me entertained and fully involved and now that I have finished the book I feel quite bereft.
It is a feel good novel which is beautifully written with two strong immensely likeable women as the main characters. They are reeling after the death of a young close family member and each coping with grief in her own way. Both realise that a drastic temporary change may be the catalyst for the beginnings of happiness and decide to swap lives for a limited time. The supporting cast are well drawn, all likeable and the conclusion is perfect.
I was stunned by just how good this book is…read it as soon as you can!
As you read ‘The Switch’ your worries and concerns will disappear as you immerse yourself in the world of the Cotton family and their friends, benefiting your heart and soul!
It is delightful!
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.
Practically perfect in every way. Highly recommended.