Half an hour passed. That’s not an especially long time, really. You can’t watch a whole episode of Buffy in that time, or… bake a large potato. But you can totally destroy your career.
I’ve been so afraid this was coming. For over a year now I’ve been fumbling my way through work, making absent-minded slip-ups and oversights… It’s like since Carla died I’ve switched writing hand, and suddenly I’m doing everything with my left, not my right. But I’ve been trying so hard and I’ve been pushing through and I really thought I was getting there.The Switch
Leena has a panic attack at work in her corporate London job. The stress has been building for a while following the death of her sister and the strain this has put on her relationship with her mum. Seeing that she has taken very little of her annual leave, her boss orders her to take two months of paid leave to rest.
Eileen, Leena’s grandma, lives in a quiet Yorkshire village and she is feeling stuck. Her husband has left her (and their two cats, Ant and Dec) for their dancing teacher. Eileen wants adventure, passion and romance but when she draws up a list of the age-appropriate single men in her area (including Basil the bigot) she realises that it does not look promising.
There. A complete list. I tilt my head, but it looks just as bleak from that angle as it does straight on. I have to face the truth: pickings are very slim in Hamleigh-in-Harksdale, population one hundred and sixty-eight. If I want to find love at this stage of my life, I need to be looking further afield.The Switch
Together they come up with a plan that they will switch lives (including all electronic devices) for two months: Leena will go to Hamleigh and Eileen to London.
In Yorkshire, Leena learns that life isn’t necessarily quiet in the village as she tries to take on her grandma’s responsibilities, including the role she plays in the local Neighbourhood Watch. In London, Eileen learns just how adventurous she can be in the big city.
Beth O’Leary’s book The Flatshare got me through Lockdown 1 with its loveliness. The Switch is just as charming but manages to not be overly sweet. Beth cuts through the sugariness with themes of domestic violence, grief and loneliness, that all run through the book. It is a reminder about the role that community can play in looking after one another. It also shows that it is not just in big cities like London that older people can feel cut off from modern life through no fault of their own.
It’s also very funny: Leena is the victim of a few comical escapades in Hamleigh and Eileen has a very dry commentary on what she witnesses in London. As with The Flatshare, there are also some great side characters who bring a lot of comedy to the story.
This is a very enjoyable read – I recommend that it be gulped down with a couple of glasses of wine whilst commenting on the height of your neighbour’s hedge.