Beth O’Leary’s debut The Flatshare is very deserving of its bestselling status – quirky, charming and memorable modern romantic fiction. Read on for our full review.
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The Flatshare Synopsis
Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…
Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.
But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…
(Hachette Australia, 2019)
I am a little late to the party, I know. But if I read every book that gets PR buzz…. well, quite frankly I’d often experience disappointment. But O’Leary’s bestselling 2019 romantic comedy debut lives up to all the hype.
The Flatshare is quirky and fun, a charming and memorable romantic read. It is like all my favourite ingredients were placed in a bowl, in exactly the right quantities, to produce a rainbow cake that rises perfectly — light and fluffy in the centre with those delicious crusty bits on the outside.
Firstly, what a fantastic setup for a romantic comedy. This ‘novel’ premise made all the more plausible by the broader context established.
Epistolary narrative structure
Through alternating first-person narratives, O’Leary beautifully captures the intimacy of leaving notes (and delight in finding them) along with the distinctly different personalities of her lead characters. Leon’s notes, and inner narrative, are matter-of-fact and staccato-like,
Often think it must be very tiring, being Tiffy. Even in note form she seems to expend so much energy.”
while Tiffy’s are expansive and chatty.
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.”
But common to both, is an underlying sense of genuine care and goodness. It did take me a little while to get used to reading Leon’s almost abbreviated, note-like thinking though.
Tiffy and Leon are highly endearing leads (unusually, almost equally so), but The Flatshare‘s supporting cast are something special too. All efficiently but expertly characterised, it is hard to pick a favourite. However, Leon’s precocious young hospice patient Holly ranks very highly amongst them — hard not to be moved by wisdom from the mouth of babes:
Being nice is a good thing. You can be strong and nice. You don’t have to be one or the other.”
However, much like one of my all-time favourite romantic comedies Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, what elevates this novel to the moving and memorable category is the way it explores very serious issues.
In The Flatshare, O’Leary skilfully balances humour with tact and gravitas, while depicting the impact fear and anxiety can have on the best of us. It acknowledges bad things happening to good people and reminds us of the value and poignancy in the little things… even companionable silence.
Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare is a heartwarming celebration of goodness and individuality. I highly recommend letting this novel shine a warm light in your world for a few days.
BOOK RATING: The Story 5 / 5 ; The Writing 5 / 5
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Genre: Romance, Drama, Humour
* Beth O’Leary’s second novel The Switch charmed me also. Find out more…
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock by Jane Riley
The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay by Nicola May
Resistance Is Futile by Jenny T Colgan
The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty
About the Author, Beth O’Leary
Beth studied English at university before going into children’s publishing. She lives as close to the countryside as she can get while still being in reach of London, and wrote her first novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from work.
She is now writing novels full time, and if she’s not at her desk, you’ll usually find her curled up somewhere with a book, a cup of tea, and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather).Updated