Book Review: 'The Flat Share' by Beth O'Leary*

I was excited to pick up ‘The Flat Share’ as it has been one of the most talked about books over the summer. During lockdown I was in need of a light hearted read that didn’t take itself too seriously. Whilst I felt that ‘The Flat Share’ hit this brief, I also felt it had some shortcomings that meant it took me an awful long time to finish, despite it being a very short and easy read.

Ever since reading Josie Silver’s ‘One Day In December’ last year I have been hungry for a brilliant romantic novel. I devoured that book like a big bar of chocolate. It was heat warming, endearing, cheesy to the max, but also page turning and engaging. I was hoping to have this same response to ‘The Flat Share’, but unfortunately was left a little cold.

Now, to briefly explain the concept of this book, because it’s a fun one with a lot of potential! Leon and Tiffy are complete strangers working in London. Leon works night shifts at a hospital whilst Tiffy works day shifts for an arts and crafts magazine (girl after my own heart). In order to save money and still live in a reasonably nice apartment in extraordinarily expensive London, they team up and move in together, but on the condition that they are never at home at the same time. I think this is a fun (albeit strange) idea that could have been played with a lot more. They so rarely faced any kind of logistical problems with their set up – what would happen if one of them needed to take a sick day, for example? Or if one of them wanted to take holiday? You kind of just had to trust blindly that these two people never strayed from their routine.

Over the course of their time living together they exchange a series of post it notes and fall hopelessly in love. However not without much agonising and over-thinking on both of their parts. I struggled to warm to either of the characters. Tiffy acted like a silly teenager, one particular moment being when she accidentally walks on Leon in the shower and then proceeds to tell her work colleague about the size of his ‘package’. Leon is not much better, barely able to string two words together, seemingly fixated on Tiffy’s chest, after seeing her run into the see in Brighton. I found these kind of passages incredibly cringey to read and whilst I think O’Leary was trying to conjure the thrill of a new relationship, it came across as awkward and childish in a way that was just a bit annoying.

The thing with this book is that there is no mystery. It’s clear from the blurb alone that Leon and Tiffy will end up together. There was no ‘will they, won’t they’. O’Leary does throw in the obstacle of Justin, Tiffy’s obnoxious ex, but he is such a repulsive clown of a character that he never poses any real threat. So for this reason I was not compelled to keep reading. I felt I knew exactly where the book was heading.

I think perhaps it was always the author’s intention to provide a book that would not challenge or provoke, but instead provide the reader with a lovely, gentle journey. For me, I was hungry for a little more. 

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