THE FLATSHARE by Beth O’Leary is the perfect escape for this anxiety-filled moment in our lives. The premise is unique, and the slow-burn romance is a wonderful balance of serious and funny, light and dark. To steal a comment from the reviewer who recommended the book to me, Susan Peterson, the story is full of “grit and depth and humanity.”
Leon and Tiffy are strangers who share one thing: financial desperation. He needs money to offset legal fees for his wrongfully imprisoned baby brother, and she’s broke thanks to her scuzzy ex. The solution, negotiated by Leon’s girlfriend, Kay, is to share a one-bedroom London flat. Including the bed. Given their work schedules, they’ll never meet. Or so it seems.
Tilly’s an underpaid associate editor in the world of niche DIY books and has a tight posse of devoted friends; Leon’s an introverted nighttime hospice nurse, adored by his patients. She uses the flat at night; he uses it during the day. On the weekends, the flat belongs to Tiffy, and Leon stays with Kay.
Both Leon and Tiffy are compassionate and loving, but damaged. Leon’s voice, which seems jarring at first, perfectly captures his intense discomfort around people. Tiffy is the opposite—a flamboyant free spirit who treats every outfit she wears as a craft project, and yet she’s still dealing with the aftermath of an abusive relationship.
Their first communication, which comes via Kay, is about who claims which side of the bed. But then they begin to leave Post-it notes for each other—about the toilet seat, leftovers, and garbage day. Tiffy, who uses baking to help with her continued angst, starts attaching her notes to home-baked goodies. Leon reciprocates with his homecooked mushroom risotto.
He begins to adapt to her weird clutter, including the psychedelic beanbag and her tatty, secondhand quilt. She spends way too much time looking at his boxers on the communal drying rack. Throughout, the notes become more and more complex and revealing. As their strange friendship grows, their lives become entwined though his brother’s situation and the creepy agenda set by her ex. Eventually, Leon and Kay break up, Tiffy and Leon meet … but the story doesn’t end there.
Wild beasts could not have wrestled this audiobook from me. The narrators were fantastic—although full disclosure, I’m a sucker for a soft, male Irish accent. The moment the story was finished, I pre-ordered O’Leary’s 2020 release. Can’t wait!