The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
In the past few years, I've read only a handful of contemporary romance novels. Instead, I've focused upon Fantasy and Thriller books thinking that I'd lost my vibe with the contemporary romance offering on the bookshelves. When I heard about Beth O'Leary's debut novel, The Flatshare, something just spoke to me about the storyline and I decided I'd give it a try.
The Flatshare is the story of Tiffy and Leon, two twenty-somethings who share a flat. The catch is they've never met. Tiffy has the flat at nights and weekends whilst Leon is at work and Leon uses it during the 9-6 weekday whilst Tiffy is at work. It's an arrangement that suits them both. Slowly but surely though they begin to build a relationship via the little notes they leave each other around the flat and that relationship blossoms into friendship and the hint of something more.
Yes, this book is exactly what you would expect, it's a contemporary romance after all. We know we are all meant to be rooting for Tiffy and Leon to get together and we have all the normal trappings of hiccups along the way and well-meaning friends trying to give them advice and it should be quite a run of the mill story but somehow I fell head over heels in love with the characters in this book and gave it what has become a very rare rating of 5 stars.
Firstly I loved how well rounded our characters of Tiffy and Leon are, I liked how Leon had such a complex job in a palliative care home, helping those with a terminal illness, this lent some lovely side characters and stories that gave some really touching emotional moments in this book. Also loved how O'Leary wound in the story of Leon's brother Richie, incarcerated for a crime he swears he didn't commit.
Also, this book was great at looking at the long-lasting impact and dangers of an emotionally abusive relationship and the behaviours of gaslighting and coercive control. It gives a really thought-provoking side to what could have been a light fluffy throwaway romance. It was great to follow Tiffy through her journey and see her growth as a character.
For a debut novel, I thought this was really well written, hugely emotional and really gripping. I couldn't stop reading. It's full of short-snappy chapters flicking between Tiffy and Leon's perspectives and makes it really easy to lose a few hours to this novel without realising it and if you aren't careful you could find yourself reading it all in one sitting. A great summer read and a fantastic first novel from O'Leary.