The Switch | Book Review
Thank you, NetGalley, Macmillan Audio and Flatiron Books, for sending me the audiobook of The Switch by Beth O'Leary in exchange for my honest review.
I have yet to read The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary, so don't ask me why I decided to pick this one up when I knew nothing about it. Maybe I was craving a fluffy romance, maybe it was all the pre-publication hype, I just know that, even after having The Flatshare on my wishlist list for months, I decided to read this before and I'm GLAD.
As I said, I knew absolutely nothing about this book going in, and I must say it took me by surprise. The Switch is definitely a romance, but that's not nearly the main point of the story. We follow two POVs, Leena and Eileen Cotton, a granddaughter/grandmother duo that puts every other relationship like that to shame. The book is set a few months after Leena's sister, Carla, passed away. In the midst of all that pain and a now complicated relationship with her grieving mother, she starts having a few troubles at work, which leads to her boss giving her a paid two-month leave so she can get her feelings sorted.
That's when, after a weekend visit to her grandmother's, she has the brilliant idea that they switch lives. Eileen's husband left, and she's on the hunt to finding a new romance, while Leena desperately needs a change. They will trade lives for the entirety of Leena's eight-week leave of work. Her grandmother will move to her flat in London and try online dating, and she will move to her grandmother's house in Yorkshire and step in to care for her depressed mother and do all the work Eileen usually does for the community.
I don't even know where to begin talking about this book, I loved it that much. First, we have the characters, all fascinating and incredible people that you can't help but fall in love with. But the highlight of this story is definitely Eileen. She's charismatic, hilarious, and a joy to follow. There's also the premise of older people finding love again, and I have never read anything remotely about that, which is a shame. Even though I loved Leena's chapters, there was something about Eileen's Londoner life that won my heart. I adored that this normalised older people finding love again and following their youthful dreams. We need more of that in mainstream media. Also, seeing her inspire Leena's twenty-something-year-old friends made me want a grandmother just like her.
Seeing Leena try to win over her grandmother's elderly friends and try to fit into the village was also incredible. Seen as they're a very tightknit community, how they reacted to this big-town outsider made for great banter and loving relationships. Another highlight was the connection between the two main characters. You see how much they're alike and care for each other, and just how important a granddaughter/grandmother bond can be.
Don't let this fluffy description fool you though, this book deals with some heavier topics, but it does so in a brilliant way. How grief can devastate a family, the multiple forms of coping with the loss of a loved one, and how that impacts every dynamic between the family and the community they live in. We see how each character heals differently, and the reconnection of the relationship between Leena and her mother. And as a precaution, there's a slight trigger warning for an abusive relationship. It's not a major plot point, and there's nothing graphic about it, but it does show up and I feel like it's important to mention.
All in all, I adored this book. I wasn't familiar with Beth O'Leary's writing, but The Flatshare just got bumped to the top of my TBR, although I don't think I'll love it just as much as this one. The story was predictable in the best way, and I listened to most of it in one day, because I simply couldn't stop. The narrators were also fantastic. I wasn't crazy about the wet-mouth noises but, after a while and listening to it on 2x speed (as I usually do), I got used to it.
I gave this book 4/5 ⭐️. I feel like these characters, and this story will stay with me for a while, and I highly recommend this if you're looking for a wholesome family-centred read. Also, I saw someone comparing this book to the film The Holiday, and I totally agree, which is a win, because that is one of my all-time favourite films. The Switch comes out on August 18th, so not long at all to go, if you're interested.