Sometimes you read a book by an author and it’s a straight five-star read for you and you vow you’re going to read more from him/her rightaway. Then six months later you see another book by the same author and realise that you just haven’t gotten around to it.
I read The Flatshare by Beth O Leary and absolutely loved it. It is only now that I have managed to get around to my second book by the author – The Switch.
Leena is a young achiever with a high-flying consultancy job and a busy life in London. She is grieving the passing away of her sister Carla and when she suffers a panic attack during a client meeting, she is sent off on a two-month sabbatical.
Eileen is her 79-year-old grandmother who lives in the quiet Yorkshire countryside. She is coming to terms with her husband’s desertion. That hasn’t, however, brought her down and she has decided she wants to find love again. Sadly enough there are no eligible gentlemen around.
What with London teeming with ready-to-date older men and Leena looking for some downtime, the idea of The Switch is born. So Eileen heads out to her granddaughter’s flat in London, while Leena takes up her responsibilities in Yorkshire.
This also allows Leena to be close to her mom Marian whom she continues to blame for Carla’s passing away. The proximity gives her a chance to work through her feelings of anger and resentment.
Thrown into the mix are her colourful bunch of friends as also Eileen’s cranky yet loveable community of the elderly (and also a very large and very handsome young man).
Here’s what I thought about it
The Switch traverses the thin line between cute and corny, between engagingly simple and boringly predictable. I can see how it could go either way for a reader. For me, it went the cute way. I liked it despite its very obvious shortcomings.
First up, the characters stole my heart.
Beth O Leary certainly knows how to craft them – Leena, Aileen, Marian, Arnold, Jackson, Bee, Betsy — I could go on. They all came with distinct personalities, each loveable in a different way.
O Leary dwells a lot on grief and how each of the three women handles it.
It is often believed that shared grief brings people together but it can just as easily tear them apart. Leena coming to terms with Carla’s passing away and being able to understand and forgive Marian was a high point for me.
Eileen’s London adventures were an absolute riot.
I utterly love her spirit and her determination to find love. Nothing, it seems, can faze her. She marches in upon people asking (demanding, more likely) for assistance and carrying along everyone on the sheer strength of her enthusiasm.
Like I mentioned, the story is replete with cliches and stereotypes and yet it made me smile. My biggest complaint would be that the challenges Eileen and Leena face are just too easily resolved. That was not only unbelievable but also rendered the narrative bland. A few more twists, a little more struggle and the story could have been elevated to a whole new level.
While The Switch is no Flatshare, I know I will be reading more from Beth O Leary.
Last thought: If you’re looking for a simple, feel-good story, pick this one.