5 out of 5 stars
Review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley. Review was written in December of 2019 and may not reflect the final product.
May, for me, is Chick Lit/Rom Com month. It’s the one month of the year that I go nutso for some good fun Romance novels and try to devour as many as possible. One title I came across was Beth O’Leary’s* debut novel, the Flatshare. It was adorable and heartfelt and everything I could want in a very English Rom Com. It was the absolute contender for my “Cutest Book of 2019” and unlikely to ever find a worthy opponent.
… I think you can see where this is going. The Switch by Beth O’Leary is every bit as adorable, heartfelt and lovable as The Flatshare is, and then some. It is far and away the cutest book for 2019 – and it hasn’t even been officially published yet so it could even get the 2020 title too!
So anyway I tweeted Beth O’Leary and now she knows how cute her book is. Because obviously I’m an authority on such things.
But what is it about, you ask – besides all the best and most wonderful things a book should be?
Young professional (*cough* workaholic *cough*) Leena Cotton needs a break. Her sister is dead, her mother has gone a bit mad, her business plans are going nowhere and her heavily pregnant housemate’s birthing plan (or lack thereof) is stressing her out. If her disastrous presentation that ended in a panic attack is anything to go by, things are starting to catch up to her. Two whole work free months of forced leave stretch out before her, and Leena is at a loss.
Eileen Cotton, newly single, almost eighty and the heart and soul of her rural Yorkshire town, is ready for a change. A romantic one, to be specific. Unfortunately, her pool of potential suitors in her town are not at all ideal. What’s a gran to do? Swap lives with her out-of-work granddaughter and join up to an online dating service, as it would happen.
As Eileen dips her toes into London’s dating pool and connects with her new charming but eccentric neighbour, Leena is dipping her does in her granny’s wellies and inadvertently wreaking havoc through the quiet rural community while trying keep up with all of her granny’s commitments around town. It’s hard work, but Leena is more that up for the task. Especially since her boyfriend in London is growing distant and her childhood friend/Mayday Committee rival is infuriatingly adorable.
I have been reading so very many world-at-stake-dragon-and-spaceship stories lately and it was so very nice to curl up with a book about family and heartache and love, and about a young woman and her granny. I, myself, have two very wonderful grandmothers – one of whom is a pillar of her small town community and always the first to volunteer for an event, much like Eileen. I love spending time with my grandmothers and I’ve found this isn’t a relationship often explored in fiction. So I was very glad to get my hands on The Switch for this reason alone.
Told in alternating perspectives, Eileen and Leena learn to navigate each others lives, meddling with the other’s friends and enemies and trying to figure themselves out in the process. I can’t say I had a particular favourite between the two perspectives. In fact, every time I got to the end of a Leena chapter, I would think “Oh finally! I’d been missing Eileen”, and vice versa. Both perspectives tell of a fish out of water discovering who they are accompanied by an ensemble cast of quirky – and admittedly sometimes interchangeable – supporting characters. The Romance! The Drama! It just worked. And I loved it.
I won’t claim that The Switch does anything new for literature or Rom Coms as a whole, but I hardly expected it to. Something I love about this kind of book is that you’re not waiting to be slapped in the face by a great cataclysmic event, but following a comfortable and winding story path set out by the author. Sure, you may be able to see what’s coming and you may get a few twists and turns along the way, but it feels really good to get what you’re expecting in the end. The Switch is such a good and comfortable book in this sense, but it still had room to tackle some big issues of belonging, loneliness, loss and finding your family. Like The Flatshare, you’re going to want to have a box of tissues around when you read it, but don’t worry! It was an overwhelmingly positive tale. It sounds so mild but this book was just Capital N Nice to experience.
I was well and truly Eileened by it.
And you’ll want to be too.
*Yes, sometimes the fact that the author and I have the same first names plays into my decision to read a book. Shut up. Its valid.