The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary
Published by Flatiron Books
Publication date: April 18, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Vacation Reading
In the same way I’m always up for a well done rom-com movie I sometimes need the same thing in my reading. The end of this year has found me unable to commit to anything with too much darkness or character study. Thankfully, a friend recommended The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary. This light story takes the unusual premise of two strangers ‘sharing’ an apartment without ever seeing each other and plays it out to a satisfying conclusion that left me happily refreshed.
Tiffy is coming out of a bad relationship and needs to get out of her ex’s flat, but her meager salary at a crafts books publisher won’t make a dent in London rental rates. She decides to take a chance on an ad for someone who works nights and is away on weekends and needs someone to help with the rent on their one-bedroom flat. An interview with the man’s girlfriend makes both her and the girlfriend feel this could work. And so, Tiffy and Leon begin sharing the same small flat, communicating only through notes.
Because plot is the pull in a rom-com there’s plenty of it in The Flatshare. Tiffy is in the midst of editing a book for an older crochet enthusiast who’s gone viral while Leon is juggling his job as a hospice night nurse, his brother’s incarceration, and his girlfriend. When Tiffy starts mood baking sweets and Leon starts eating them a friendship of words forms and the Post-its pile up.
What made The Flatshare so enjoyable is the voices O’Leary gives her characters. Tiffy has a circle of close friends, all protective and all equipped with sharp humor. She herself is an eccentric, hence the job editing DIY craft books, while Leon is reserved and quiet, but with an active wry internal monologue. This odd couple pairing in one tiny flat could devolve into slapstick, but O’Leary layers in situations that keep the story relatable. This is especially well-done regarding two disparate subjects: unhealthy relationships and the criminal justice system. Both are serious topics, handled respectfully, but not in a way that overwhelms The Flatshare. They’re simply another element in the complicated lives in this thoroughly entertaining book.
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