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The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary

Beth O’Leary’s debut novel The Flatshare is a humorous, heart-warming romance novel.

Tiffany Rose “Tiffy” Moore is looking for a change. The Gumtree ad could be a start. Leon Twomey, a twenty-seven-year-old palliative nurse, will be away nights and weekends, sleeping in the flat from nine in the morning till six in the evening. This schedule is perfect for Tiffy, and it’s a much better option than the musty apartment (and its toilet fungi) that she and her friends Gerty and Mo first check out.

Tiffy and Leon are both down-to-earth and equally loveable characters. Tiffy is quirky; Leon is straightforward. From agreeing to share a side of the bed, they proceed to exchange post-it notes, meals, family secrets, work woes, and personal stories. Tiffy is moving on from a tough breakup with her unfaithful albeit obsessive boyfriend Justin. Upcoming projects and demanding clients at work add to the load. As for Leon, he needs money. His girlfriend Kay is a bit of a micromanager. His brother, Richie, has been wrongly imprisoned after an armed robbery.

Tiffy is a breath of fresh air, filling Leon’s small apartment with tie-dyed variety, special candle-holders, and lava lamps. She does, after all, work as an editorial assistant for Butterfingers Press, which specialises in crafting and DIY books for a relatively niche audience. Soon the flat becomes more like a home, constantly equipped with simple surprises and comforts in the forms of Tiffy’s baked treats, Leon’s leftover dinners, and the pretty scarves hidden underneath the bed that they share. The spark of spontaneity proves to be contagious, easing the burden of their busy routines. (Tiffy’s tendency to cook double quantities and “panic-bake” Victoria sponges and chocolate tiffin has its obvious benefits.)

The novel alternates between Tiffy and Leon’s individual points of view. Tiffy’s extensive, colourful, and bubbly thoughts indicate her cheery, energetic personality. Leon’s notes are brief and exclude personal pronouns, demonstrating that he has quite a lot on his plate. Through their correspondence they support each other’s work, bringing in their own friends and colleagues to help out. Will Tiffy and Leon ever meet in the midst of their crazy schedules?

The Flatshare, with its unique characters and skilled narration, could very well lend itself to cinematic adaptation. It would make a fabulously cosy read for anyone who enjoys reading and watching anything by Nicholas Sparks, Jojo Moyes, and Nora Ephron. Be advised: you’ll read the whole book from start to finish, and will probably be snacking the whole time.

Reviewer: Azariah Alfante

Publisher: Hachette NZ, RRP: $34.99