The Flat Share by Beth O-Leary
Length: 336 pages
Recommended reader age: Adult
Publisher: Quercus Publishing, 2019
Genre: Romance fiction
About the author:
Beth O’Leary has previously worked as a childrens publisher and wrote the Sunday Times best seller “The Flat Share” on the train journey to work.
She has been writing since childhood and got inspiration for The Flat Share due to her own experience with her partner working nights.
Check out her website for more info!
Tiffy: Extrovert who loves bright clothes and works for a publishing company specialising in niche books.
Gerty: Tiffy’s friend since university and a barrister. Super organised and unafraid to voice her opinions, which are normally scarily sensible.
Mo: Tiffy’s other friend from university and a chronically messy counsellor
Rachel: works with Tiffy at the publishers and always keen to hear the juicier gossip of her life
Justin: Tiffy’s Ex boyfriend
Leon: night shift nurse in a hospice and the owner of the flat.
Plot summary, spoiler free I promise:
We start the novel with an introduction to Tiffy, Mo and Gerty, and learn why she is flat hunting with such a tiny budget. We also learn about Tiffy, her job, sense of style and begin to see that despite everything she is determined and passionate individual.
We then switch to Leon’s point of view, and discover why he has come up with such a strange scheme to share his 1 bed flat with a total stranger. This is also the start of a long, long series of sticky notes left behind, their primary cause of communication as they never inhabit the flat at the same time.
The novel continues in the same way, alternating chapters from Leon or Tiffy’s point of view, and together, yet apart, they navigate long lost loves, obsessive ex boyfriends and a brother in prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit.
This is not a genre of book that I normally read so I was surprised by how quickly I was absorbed into the story. I loved the range of characters from the start, they were all so unique without being a cliche and I found they all quickly became familiar allowing me to settle into the narrative and enjoy events as they unfolded. I enjoyed how Leon and Tiffy were such different people in terms of their clothing, hobbies and lifestyle but shared similar values and a love of baked goods.
I found the concept of 2 strangers sharing a bed (albeit at different times) just a little bit weird, and I am no stranger to hot bunking on yachts where you share a space with someone on a different watch time. It definitely takes 2 unique people to be comfortable in that situation and to be fair the author absolutely managed this with both Leon and Tiffy. A lot of the situation was familiar to me though with a partner that frequently works nights and this definitely helped me warm to the concept.
I did find some plot points just incredibly predicable from the beginning, I won’t say more for risk of spoilers, but the majority of events and reveals I had guessed at or picked up on ages before they happened. This didn’t impact my enjoyment of the book massively as so much else happens, and simply finding out more about Tiffy and Leon’s past, their connections with people in their lives and watching their characters grow was enjoyable to read in itself. I would have liked to see a little less of the predictable outcomes, especially with a book that had such a wild and unique starting point.
I also got annoyed at the usual “misunderstanding and lack of communication almost ruins a relationship” bit that seems to feature in every romantic story, but ultimately this showcased the best sides of all the characters involved, and really highlighted their growth and strength after some seriously tough moments so all is forgiven. I also always find myself being overly picky and inclined to rip apart romance books so don’t take my criticism too seriously if this is a genre you enjoy.
The author did a perfect job of showcasing the impact that emotionally abusive relationships can have, without falling into the trap of making this the only key point of the character. It was clearly significant but their personality and courage still shone through.
The final scene left me with tears running down my face, it was both heartwarming and devastating, now it may have just been pregnancy and the sheer amount of chocolate I had eaten but it was the perfect ending. I am still not 100 percent convinced about the concept but appreciated how well the story was made.
Recommended for anyone who enjoys romance books or anyone looking for an easy yet heartwarming read with a great cast of characters.
“I stop dead in my tracks. Someone behind me walks into me and swears (stopping abruptly in central London is a heinous crime, and immediately gives the people around you permission to kick you)”