I bought The Switch by Beth O’Leary simply because I loved her previous novel – The Flat Share. The Flat Share was one of my feelgood reads for self-isolation and lockdown and was universally loved. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad word about it.
The Switch tells the story of 20-something Leena and her 79-year-old grandmother, Eileen. Leena lives in a flat with friends in London, while Eileen lives in a small village in Yorkshire. Eileen has recently split up from her husband and is looking for love, but there is a real shortage of 70-something eligible bachelors in the village.
When Leena messes up a presentation at work, she’s told to take eight weeks off to get her head together. So she decides to head for Yorkshire for a break and Eileen moves into Leena’s flat and embraces dating apps.
While Leena joins the Neighbourhood Watch and May Day committees and attempts a bit of dog walking, Eileen sets about meeting the neighbours. She doesn’t understand why Leena’s flatmates don’t know who lives in their building, so she knocks on a few doors to introduce herself. After the initial shock of someone being so bold, everyone in the building starts to get to know each other.
My first impression of The Switch was that the dialogue was a bit clunky. I felt that the author was trying to shoehorn a lot of backstory in through the dialogue, meaning it didn’t flow as naturally as I would like. But within a chapter or two I was so taken in by the sweet story that it didn’t matter any more (and I think the dialogue improved anyway).
The story is told alternately by Leena and Eileen, which works well. It is definitely romantic fiction and there are no surprises at all when it comes to which old man Eileen ends up with, but there are plenty of twists and turns along the way. Although a light read, it covers important subjects including grief, mental health and loneliness. In parts it reminds me a lot of Mike Gayle’s All the Lonely People, which I read recently, and that is definitely a good thing.
Is The Switch as good as The Flat Share? Nearly.
But if you are looking for an easy, enjoyable and uplifting read, I would definitely recommend The Switch.