Having enjoyed Beth O’Leary’s debut novel, The Flatshare, I was expecting to like The Switch just as much. However, although I liked this book, for me it wasn’t in the same league. There wasn’t the same page-turning quality and I felt that it became too emotionally intense too early on.
The story is told from the viewpoints of Leena, a young woman with a fancy corporate job in London, and her grandmother Eileen, who lives in the kind of village where everyone knows each other. They decide to ‘switch’ lives for a short time, and in doing so they aim to solve each other’s problems. Eileen is also looking for romance, while Leena is still angry with her mum over the death of Carla, Leena’s sister. There are also tensions in Eileen’s community. I like how issues are explored, such as the isolation felt by the elderly and the importance of talking about one’s feelings. It was also interesting to note the differences between the two settings – the hipsters living in converted warehouses, with their spin classes and posh coffees, compared with the older folk living a quiet semi-rural existence in a place where the May Day festival is the highlight of the year. The ending was predictable but that was expected for a book which ultimately is uplifting rather than depressing, for all its emotional pain. There were some funny moments but not laugh-out-loud.
I didn’t really engage with Leena, who I think is supposed to be around my age, or maybe a bit younger. I got little sense of who she was, other than someone who is super-organised and predictably embarrasses herself when a hot man is on the scene. Considering that I liked her equivalent in The Flatshare, Tiffy, considerably more, I wonder if my indifference towards Leena is the main reason for my lack of enthusiasm for the book.
The Switch is published this month. Thank you to Quercus for the ARC via NetGalley.