The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
Published: May 2019
Genre: women’s fiction
After a bad breakup, Tiffy Moore needs a place to live. Fast. And cheap. But the apartments in her budget have her wondering if astonishingly colored mold on the walls counts as art.
Desperation makes her open minded, so she answers an ad for a flatshare. Leon, a night shift worker, will take the apartment during the day, and Tiffy can have it nights and weekends. He’ll only ever be there when she’s at the office. In fact, they’ll never even have to meet.
Tiffy and Leon start writing each other notes – first about what day is garbage day, and politely establishing what leftovers are up for grabs, and the evergreen question of whether the toilet seat should stay up or down. Even though they are opposites, they soon become friends. And then maybe more.
But falling in love with your roommate is probably a terrible idea…especially if you’ve never met.
Tiffy needs to move into a cheap flat fast. Leon needs a little extra cash to pay his rent. Their arrangement is perfect for their needs — Tiffy works during the day and will sleep at the flat at night and on weekends; Leon works overnight and will sleep at the flat during the day and spend weekends with his girlfriend. Though they’ve never met, they begin to learn one another’s habits, get to know the triumphs and woes through culinary experiments and leftovers, and soon the post-it notes of quick information decorate the flat with full out conversations. As the weeks pass and feelings deepen, Tiffy and Leon must decide if falling for your flatmate is the right step for them.
The premise for the novel is a standard, run-of-the-mill, surface-level romcom of meet cutes and bizarre situations. But this surprised me in the best way: the depth, the level of care, and the attention to Tiffy’s gaslighting ex-boyfriend was phenomenal. I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone who has been emotionally abused, or someone who is friends with a person recovering from gaslighting, or someone who loves a person who was emotionally abused or gaslit. Every situation experienced, or Leon witnessed, is exactly the kind of scenario a person experiences when recovering from abusive situations. O’Leary did an absolutely fantastic job portraying this from all perspectives — from Tiffy’s waffling (abused) to Leon’s instinctual need to care or defend (lover), and Gerty’s aggressive tough love (angry friend) to Mo’s patience and understanding (therapist friend).
That’s not to say this isn’t a lighthearted book, because it absolutely is! I laughed out loud so many times. I really loved Leon’s dry humor and big heart, and Tiffy’s quirky job as an editor at a niche hobby publisher. Some of the best moments between Tiffy and Leon are in their post-it note exchanges — with Tiffy’s long stories and Leon’s short and to-the-point commentary. His calm and relaxed demeanor compliments Tiffy’s outgoing and fun personality. Plus the secondary characters felt just as fully-developed and genuine as Tiffy and Leon. In many ways I think I’m a Gerty striving to be a Mo!
A refreshing read wherein I felt so seen. A million thank yous to O’Leary for writing this. It’s gold.
Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Macmillan for review!