Book Review: The Switch by Beth O’Leary

“When people talk about loss, they always say you’ll never be the same, that it will change you, leave a hole in your life … But when you lose somebody you love, you don’t lose everything they gave you. They leave something with you.”

Published in 2020, The Switch by Beth O’Leary follows 79-year-old Eileen and her twenty-something granddaughter, Leena, who are both tired of life. So maybe it’s time they swapped places…

When overachiever Leena is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical, 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. So they decide to swap houses for two months. 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.

Rating:

After loving The Flatshare and hearing top reviews for Beth O’Leary’s latest, I couldn’t wait to dive into The Switch. A warm and light-hearted story about how the troubles of life can sometimes leave you in a bit of a rut, it’s an uplifting and endearing family drama that’s easy to enjoy.

O’Leary brilliantly explores the complicated relationships we can have with our family and the turmoils we can often go through with them. There’s definitely a lot of heart to the story, and I especially love the focus on how you can want so desperately to settle down and achieve certain goals when you’re younger but to then need some freedom when you’re older.

However, I find myself underwhelmed. Maybe it’s because I loved The Flatshare so much and connected with those characters better, or maybe it’s because the humour died down quite early so it didn’t maintain that initial spark I had with it. The plot ended up feeling quite cliche and predictable in certain areas, too, so I just didn’t love this one as much as I hoped to.

Also, who lets their Gran go to London to have sex with strangers at the age of 79? That didn’t sit right with me at all. Obviously she had to be around this age to fit three generations in, but Leena acted more like she was in her thirties, as well, so I would have enjoyed this a lot more if they were mother and daughter and their ages suited their characters better.

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