Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Alphabet 2020: R is for a review of The Switch by Beth O'Leary

What's this? A review? Why yes it is! And there could be another in the next couple of days! Definitely worth including in my Alphabet 2020 themes for this year! Yes, I confess, I am trying to meet two objectives with one post! It's a bit of a stretch but I am counting it.


Last year, we went on holidays to America. Remember holidays? I do. What that means for those of us living in Australia is very, very long flights. On that occasions the flights were delayed for a day, then we flew from Melbourne to Sydney, then to Houston and then finally to New Orleans. What do you need for so many and such long flights? Entertainment! And that was when I read Beth O'Leary's debut novel, The Flatshare. It was a perfect plane book. I laughed, I cried, and it was my only 5/5 read last year. There was therefore never any doubt that i was going read this book when it came out.

When Netgalley announced that they were starting to provide audiobooks for review through their new app, and I saw that this was one of the audiobooks, I jumped at the opportunity to listen to it.

Leena Cotton is the perfect career woman. She is driven, respected, ambitious, with a handsome and loving boyfriend. She has it all!  So what if she is having panic attacks before major presentations and her performance is dropping. So what if her relationship with her mother is non existent? So what if she is still struggling to deal with the loss of her beloved sister to cancer the year before.  It turns out that those are major issues, so much so that she is ordered to take a two month sabbatical from her job in London.

Leena's 79 year old grandmother Eileen lives in a small village in Yorkshire. She is one of the people who keeps the village going. She's a member of the Neighbourhood Watch, she helps organise the village fete every year, she watches out for those around her. She is, however, lonely, after her husband of many years leaves her. She is ready to get back on the dating scene, but there are slim pickings in the small town. The local Her grumpy next door neighbour Arnold. Absolutely not!

When Leena comes to visit her grandmother, the idea that they should swap lives is born. Leena can take the time to rest and recuperate, and maybe fix her relationship with her mother while Eileen can try life in London for two month and while she is there she might get a second chance at love.

It isn't quite as simple as that. For Leena, life in a small village is very busy. She has to take on the responsibilities that Eileen has left behind, which means committee meetings, organising others, walking the handsome school teacher's boisterous dog. And of course, small villages being as they are, finding herself in the middle of the village gossip circles. Leena doesn't necessarily get off to the best start, especially with Arnold and Eileen's best friend Betsy. And as for a long distance relationship with her equally career driven boyfriend - the plans to have him visit on weekends didn't last very long. There were always excuses as to why he couldn't make the trip up north.

For Eileen living in London is an eye-opening experience. She doesn't understand how her new flatmates live their lives, barely acknowledging the other people who live in the flats, unsuccessfully  trying to date with unreal expectations as to what or who they were looking for. It doesn't take Eileen long to start organising the people around her, coming up with the idea to create a safe place for other older people in the local community to meet up as a social club., Once Leena's bestie gives Eileen a lesson in online dating, she is also launched onto the dating scene. But Eileen hasn't yet learnt to look out for the warning signs, given that she accepts everyone at face value.

It is interesting to me that the story that I was most interested in was Eileen's. She is thirty years older than I am and definitely has way more get up and go than I do!  She took the opportunities that came her way, getting to know the other occupants in the building far more than Leena and her flatmates ever had. She embraced dating and sex with a joy that was a bit surprising given that she is nearly 80 and soon was helping out her flatmates with their lives as well. But there was always going to be a time when she had to go home. And what then? Is that it for love and adventure for Eileen? And will her desire to protect her daughter and grand daughter at any cost go awry?

Leena was a bit more problematic for me. I got that she was grieving and mentally exhausted. She just didn't seem to have the ability to really see the people around her. Whilst that was initially understandable, it did seem to drag on for a while and there were times that I wanted to just lean into the book and tell her to wake up!

Whereas The Flatshare was a 5 star read for me, this was a good read without being spectacular. Having said that, am I already excited about this author's next book, The Roadtrip, which is due out next year? You bet I am!

I mentioned that I listened to this book. The narrators were Alison Steadman as Eileen and Daisy Edgar-Jones from Normal People as Leena and I did enjoy their performances. However, the Netgalley app itself was a bit glitchy. It kept on stopping every time I got a notification on my phone or when I got to the end of a chapter. I am hopeful that these issues will be resolved as the app gets developed further.

Rating 4/5

Goodreads Description

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?


  1. Sounds like a fun read! I'll check this one out for sure.

  2. The Flatshare was delightful so I'm excited about this one. Glad to hear you enjoyed it and I think I already like Eileen better!

  3. Lovely review, I liked it too. I really need to read The Flat Share!

  4. This sounds excellent - I haven't heard of this one before. Thank-you for the review. I have that problem with one of my audio apps too and it is really annoying!!

  5. You have me most interested to read The Flatshare .... sounds fun. I must find it .... I'll get it at the library thanks.!

    1. I hope you enjoy it if you do read it!

  6. I want this book. It's on my wish list at Netgalley but I don't think they'll give it to me now, not after my last post!

    Great review. I also liked Flatshare.

    1. I doubt they will look at every blog!

  7. I've heard good things about this book - thanks for your review.