A review of The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
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Admittedly, the basic premise of The Flatshare asks for some suspension of disbelief.
Here’s the gist. Dumped (again) by her on-and-off boyfriend, Justin, Tiffy decides it’s time to move out of his place and find one of her own.
The problem? She’s working with a pretty small salary and needs to find somewhere, quick. Otherwise she might end up going back to Justin — again.
Enter the flatshare posting of one L. Twomey, night shift nurse looking to split his flat 50/50 with someone who works a 9–5. They’ll share the entire space — including the bed — but never be around at the same time.
Weird? Yes. Affordable on Tiffy’s small salary? Also yes.
As Tiffy and her things move in to the apartment, she and its occupant, Leon, begin exchanging increasingly detailed and numerous post-it notes. Think of it like a modern-day, sticky-note based epistolary love story.
I found it a little bit unlikely that a) a woman would be willing to share a flat with a man she’s never met and b) two people in the modern era would choose to communicate mainly via post-it.
But, because the notes were so cute and fun, and because I loved both Tiffy and Leon, I was willing and able to suspend this disbelief to dig in.
One of the reasons I hesitated to read The Flatshare is that I wasn’t sure how I would react to Tiffy’s story. This is not a major spoiler, since it comes into play almost immediately — Tiffy’s move is part of her journey out of an emotionally abusive relationship, even if she doesn’t quite have that frame of mind about it initially.
As someone who was in a similar relationship when I was younger, I worried that the book would be triggering for me. I haven’t actually read anything before that I can recall having such an honest, real portrayal of someone’s recovery and healing after this kind of abuse.
At times, Tiffy’s fears and feelings were uncomfortably familiar to me, and yet… rather than being unpleasant, I found the story ultimately hopeful and validating. I appreciated the effort to depict the realities of how this kind of gaslighting and controlling behavior impacts us even after we’ve “gotten out.”
Tiffy’s lingering fears and doubts, her initial denial that the issues in her relationship were as intense as her friends claimed, all felt realistic to me, though it is of course only one portrayal. Everyone’s healing journey after trauma will look different, after all, but it was nice to see one version of it play out on the page in the context of a story with a genre-guaranteed Happily Ever After.
I liked seeing that kind of personal growth and strength set alongside a generally cheerful, happy love story. For all that Tiffy is processing, she is still a vibrant, hilarious human who enters into her friendship with Leon with openness and kindness.
It’s nice to see someone with a difficult romantic past getting to pursue her Happily Ever After, even if it begins (perhaps necessarily) through quirky post-it notes.
At this point, I’ve spoken so much about Tiffy and how much I adore her as a character that I might not have even conveyed that The Flatshare is a dual perspective narrative. We see Leon’s side of things, as well.
Reader, I have a confession.
I have often mentioned that dual perspective isn’t my cup of tea in a romance novel. But I cannot imagine this book without Leon’s unique perspective and way of narrating. In reading this book, I finally realized why so many dual POV romances fall flat for me — the characters’ individual sections often don’t really have their own town and style. We switch perspectives, but the narrative voice remains more or less the same, which leaves me asking… why do this?
Not so of The Flatshare. Leon’s sections are written in such a different style to Tiffy’s, capturing their different personalities and outlooks in a way that brings each character to life on the page.
A few chapters into reading, I confess I started to think in the “extra words are nonsense” cadence of Leon’s thoughts, which is how I know that the book really gripped me.
Knowing where he was at when the inevitable Bad Thing happened was particularly soothing in this instance, and did not ruin the suspense for me in the slightest.
In all, I am so glad I caved to the Bookstagram hype and picked up this book! It was adorable, hilarious, and even a little bit healing for me personally.
Tiffy and Leon are two characters I know I’ll be thinking about for a while, which to me is the sign of an excellent read.
I recommend The Flatshare to fans of a good epistolary novel (the post-its have shades of this, after all), to romantic comedy lovers, and to those who enjoy well-rounded characters.
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