I started looking forward to The Switch when I finished Beth O’Leary’s first book, The Flatshare. This second book was just as lovely and nuanced as her first!
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? from Goodreads.
Beth O’Leary has a way of taking a woman’s everyday life and peeling back the layers until we can see precisely what gets her up in the morning and what keeps her awake at night. I love the complexity of her characters and how they seem to defy my expectations while still resonating as real and true people for me. Just take a second to re-read the blurb put out for this book. If you were forced to file this book you would probably put it with romance. Certainly, there is romance in this book but it is 10% of the story. The rest is the telling of the real lives of these two women and how their pasts, personalities, and experiences will alter their future.
Right off the bat I must confess – I love stories about older people. I find it annoying that so many stories center around young geniuses and prodigies and give no credit to the lifetime of information and knowledge that is acquired and used by an older person. The message seems clear: if you don’t accomplish great things by age 40 (at the latest!) then your life is just “normal” and “boring” and whatever you achieve is no longer an accomplishment.
Beth O’Leary’s writing seems to agree with me. Leena is the youngest senior consultant in the business. That makes her powerful and admired by everyone and the idea of taking two months forced leave puts her in a panic because she will be behind.
Side note: this notion of being “behind” is one the whole world just needs to stop buying into. Life is not a race.
Meanwhile, her grandmother Eileen is 79 and, by our society’s standards, done with new experiences. There is nothing left for older people to accomplish, right?
Another side note: telling a woman of a certain age that doing something new is “brave” is rude.
But there are more Eileens out there than we know and when Leena swaps with her grandmother she finds out just how difficult it is to step into her wellies. Meanwhile, the change up for Eileen does wonders for her confidence and risk taking. Neither Leena nor Eileen are magically transformed by their environments but their change in venue certainly allows them to give themselves permission to try new things and re-examine their past and their future. We should all give ourselves the same permission!
I just could not put this book down. Eileen and Leena are absolutely wonderful characters and I wish they were both my neighbors and my friends. We could certainly use more of them out in the world today!
Tell me, please! Do you have any books featuring older characters being successful?
Wonderful review! I loved this one too and thought Eileen was brilliant!
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I’m going to grow up to be Eileen! Thanks!
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