Book Review: The Flatshare – Beth O’Leary

Book Rating : 4 stars

The Flatshare

The Flatshare was an unexpected recommendation I found after reading The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman.

My go-to reads are rarely rom-coms or chick-flik books, but The Flatshare took me by (pleasant) surprise!

Tiffy’s on-off boyfriend Justin has left her yet again. This time, though, he’s left her for another woman. Tiffy needs to leave their shared apartment and find one of her own.

Leon is a night nurse who is never in his apartment during the day. He’s also got a brother in jail and needs extra cash to pay for lawyer fees and more.

Tiffy answers Leon’s ad for a strange, but potentially doable living arrangement: sharing a flat, and not only that, but sharing a bed. Just not at the same time.

Desperate, Tiffy accepts the terms – she gets the apartment 6pm-8am, and weekends, while Leon gets it 8am-6pm. They never have to meet. Tiffy gets the left side of the bed, Leon gets the right. They share a bathroom, kitchen, closet, and furniture.

Makes sense, right?

Right.

Eventually, Tiffy and Leon leave each other notes – post-its like “please sleep on the left side of the bed only,” to “there’s some rocky road I made for you, help yourself.” The notes grow in length and emotions, from Leon mentioning his girlfriend Kay, to Tiffy mentioning Justin. This goes on for months, without either meeting each other. Tiffy knows what Leon looks like from stalking him on Facebook, but Leon is too busy and tired and doesn’t care enough to do any similar stalking. The two could pass each other on the sidewalk and not even know they were each other’s flatmates.

The characters are quirky and lovable, down to even surly Gerty, Tiffy’s barrister friend.

Being nice is a good thing. You can be strong and nice. You don’t have to be one or the other.

Every character had their own personality – somewhat cliche, of course, but likable nonetheless. The writing and overall storyline was both amusing and romantic in its own way – it wasn’t drippingly so, but I did chuckle throughout and feel excited at the thought of Tiffy and Leon eventually meeting – and falling in love.

What I really enjoyed though, was watching Tiffy grow. It may not have been much throughout the book, but there were so many baby steps that erupted in Tiffy being able to walk away from her abusive boyfriend Justin. From recognizing the abuse to learning to not be swallowed up by it, she grew as a person, with Leon beside her, giving her the space and love she needed.

A somewhat lighter read that kept me wanting to know what would happen next, The Flatshare was an unusual plot I’d never read before. It was inspired by the author’s experience of having a medical school boyfriend who she wouldn’t see sometimes for weeks, and how they’d keep in touch through notes.

Favorite quotes from The Flatshare:

Being nice is a good thing. You can be strong and nice. You don’t have to be one or the other.

My dad likes to say, ‘Life is never simple’. This is one of his favourite aphorisms. I actually think it’s incorrect. Life is often simple, but you don’t notice how simple it was until it gets incredibly complicated, like how you never feel grateful for being well until you’re ill, or how you never appreciate your tights drawer until you rip a pair and have no spares.

I hand her the coffee. She gives it a sip, then nods in approval. I do a little fist pump, officially becoming a less odious human being than the man who wants to build a wall between Mexico and the US.

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