In brief: Tiffy needs somewhere to live. Leon needs money. So, sharing a flat (and a bed) sounds like a good idea for night shift worker Leon and Tiffy. It’s weird, never meeting your flatmate but somehow they get to know each other.
The good: It’s brilliant – funny, moving, sweet and a great idea.
The not-so-good: I could not put this down.
Why I chose it: Heard a zillion good things about it – thanks to Hachette for the copy.
Publisher: Quercus (Hachette)
Setting: Mainly London, England
Rating: 10 out of 10
It’s going to be difficult to review The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary without seeming like a gushing fangirl mess. We’re only a third of the way through 2019, but I’m certain this will make my top reads of the year. It’s a fresh, funny and delightful story that will charm any reader with a heart. It’s got sustenance as well as laughs, plus it was written on Beth O’Leary’s commute. So, get off your phone tomorrow morning and start thinking. We need more touching stories like this in fiction.
Weirdly enough, The Flatshare is about two people who share a flat in London. But, it’s not your typical agreement. Leon works nights as a palliative care nurse, so on offer is the opportunity to sleep in his bed at night and have the flat on weekends when he’s with his girlfriend. During the day, the flat is his. And oh yes, there’s one bed. For Tiffy, trying to detach herself from ex Justin, this is the best arrangement out there. The flat is nice, has no fungi collections and is central. According to Leon’s girlfriend, all transactions will be done through her so Tiffy never meets Leon. Yes, it’s weird but Tiffy is happy to roll with it. Then the sticky notes start. Tiffy likes to pour her thoughts out onto the page as she asks about flat rules and quiet, reserved Leon finds himself writing more than the essentials. They are kind of pen pals through notes stuck to tables and the fridge, learning each other’s problems. Tiffy works a minimum wage job that is fun but involves being a crochet model and Justin keeps showing up in weird places (like on a cruise ship). Leon’s on a mission to help out one of his patients find a lost love and most importantly, to fund an appeal for his wrongfully convicted brother. When they finally meet, things become even more convoluted as good and bad things happen. But ultimately, this is a great uplifting read.
Tiffy and Leon are like chalk and cheese. Tiffy is outgoing, outrageously dressed and needs to discuss everything with friends Mo, Gerty and Rachel before a decision can be made. Leon is a quiet guy except to his patients and brother (i.e. those he knows well and truly cares for). He might seem like he’s pushed around, but when it comes to the crunch, Leon is ultra-loyal and very good fun. I really liked the idea of a quieter hero who likes stability and shies away from change. Tiffy is his opposite but definitely not bolshy. Her tough, loud exterior hides a woman who doubts herself and who has been shattered in the past. So on the inside, these characters are perfect for each other. There is enough angst to create excellent tension and a few scary moments. Don’t dismiss The Flatshare as lightweight because it deals with heavier issues and does so excellently. It never lost the tone of hope, nor did it let the light disappear from the end of the tunnel.
Simply put, this is an absolute must read if you enjoy uplit, rom-coms or general fiction. The Flatshare has everything a reader needs to fall in love with.