Beth O’Leary’s debut novel The Flatshare is a comfort blanket of a book filled with warmth, humour and lots of heart.
This book is everywhere at the moment. From the BBC Radio 2 Book Club to all of our Twitter feeds, O’Leary’s first novel is getting tonnes of attention.
What’s it all about?
Here’s the blurb from the publisher:
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…
What’s good about it?
O’Leary takes a very real problem for many people in their 20s and 30s – trying to find somewhere to live without going bankrupt – and turns it into the premise for an unapologetically feel good rom-com.
Tiffy and Leon share the most intimate of spaces (a bed) without ever meeting; they know each other’s smells, sleeping patterns and mattress indents but have never spoken or looked each other in the eye. In this forced familiarity, O’Leary has discovered a unique premise on which to explore a burgeoning relationship.
And it’s that developing connection that provides the heart of this book. While there is lots of other action taking place, from violent relationships to the search for a longlost love, it’s the growing relationship between Tiffy and Leon that really held my attention. By communicating through Post-It notes and interpreting the household signs of troubled minds (unwashed dishes and uneaten food), they learn to understand each other more than the other characters with whom they have full contact.
What’s not so good about it?
The plot is pretty predictable and the climax at the end won’t come as a surprise to most readers. The book was also too long in my opinion and would have benefited from a tighter edit to maintain its pace to the end.
Overall, this is a warm and funny novel that looks at the highs and lows of human connection.
The Flatshare is published by Quercus on 18 April. Thanks to Quercus and The Reading Agency for our proofs.