Review: The Flatshare
The Flatshare is Beth O’Leary’s debut novel. It follows Tiffy and Leon, who share a one-bedroom flat; Leon occupies the flat while Tiffy’s at work during the day and Tiffy has the run of the place the rest of the time. Tiffy and Leon have never met. I had seen many people I follow on Twitter talk about this book, so I finally decided to pick myself up a copy. I cannot express this enough. I. Love. This. Book. I 100% get why so many people were recommending it.
Before I talk about why I love this book so much, I went to mention something about O’Leary that I personally found inspiring and motivational to me as a fellow (budding) writer. At the beginning of the book, there is a very brief author bio. This is very typical of books (although they are usually at the back and you completely forget they exist.) However, it mentioned that O’Leary wrote this book on her train journey’s to and from work and that she now writes full time. This gave me the kick in the backside I didn’t know I needed. My father will tell you, (Dave insert little titbit here if you want (No, I won’t – Dave) that since I was a child all I’ve ever wanted to be was a writer, a full-time writer. However, I have a problem with procrastinating and would much rather watch ‘Bob’s Burgers’ for the 10th time than write. But, if O’Leary can write an entire novel on train journeys, I can dedicate some time every day to writing also. So, thank you, Beth O’Leary.
Okay, back to the review. Something I loved was the alternating chapters between Tiffy and Leon and that sometimes one of their chapters would be only three pages long, other times they would be twenty. Having them alternate every other chapter not only helped me to get to know each character better but it also seemed more natural. No chapter lingered on longer than it had too, which was utterly refreshing. Something else I liked about Tiffy and Leon’s chapters was how differently they were formatted/written. Whereas Tiffy uses speech marks (‘I love him,’ I said,) Leon uses a colon (Me: I love her.) Writing their chapters this way not only gave them each a unique voice, but it matched their personalities so well. Tiffy is creative, funny and exciting so it makes sense to use speech marks for her; Leon is more rigid, formal and hesitant, so using a colon works perfectly for his speech. Also, the fact that their chapters are written so differently, it helped to emphasise how different they are.
Something I particularly loved about the plot was that the storyline didn’t just revolve around their romance. It was so nice to read a romance novel where you get to see their relationship develop, and that you get to see them develop their friendship for a huge chunk of the book before developing feelings for one another, (a lot of romance novels go from being strangers straight to the romance.) It was nice seeing that Tiffy and Leon had their own lives and their own interests and priorities that didn’t revolve around each other. This leads me onto my next point, I adored seeing their friendship blossom via the post-it notes they leave each other. Not only was this a great way of revealing extra information to the reader and an excellent way to let Tiffy and Leon get to know each other before they met, but it was lovely seeing the progression of their notes, especially Leon’s. His start out very short, simple, informative, signing off with his name; they slowly develop to add more personal statements and feelings and begins ending them with an ‘x’ like Tiffy does on all of hers. It was such a simple change but added so much to their budding romance and character development.
I have seen some people review this book as being ‘boring’ and although I love this novel, I can see why they would feel that. The plot in itself is quite mundane, but that’s the beauty of it. It follows regular people, living regular lives with all the ups and downs. Everything that happens in the novel is something that could happen to anyone (relative in prison, abusive partner, getting a promotion, falling in love etc.) Some people need something extra exciting to happen in a book to enjoy it, and that’s fine. Some people, like me, enjoy a “simplistic” book, that is also fine.
In conclusion, to Beth O’Leary, if you ever happen to stumble upon this, I absolutely adored your debut novel and you have inspired me to finish mine. I will be reading your other book ‘The Switch’ as soon as I grab a copy of it. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a sweet, heart-warming love story.
Review by Megan.