If the idea of flatmates sharing a bed at alternate hours without meeting sounds too farfetched, hold your skepticism. If it sounds like a meet cute waiting to happen, you’re in luck. Regardless of your starting point, The Flatshare is a charming love story that’s likely to warm your heart.
Tiffy loves her job as assistant editor for a publisher of DIY books. That’s the only reason she can justify sticking around despite the dismal pay. But after her boyfriend dumps her—for real, this time—she’s got to find a flat with rent she can afford. Leon needs extra cash, and he’s willing to get creative. Working overnight shifts as a palliative care nurse means his place is vacant when most people are home. Why not rent it out? Though it means designating which side of the bed is his and sharing it with a stranger, Leon is willing to go to extremes. His family needs his help.
The flatmates follow a strict schedule to ensure that they won’t meet—a rule Leon’s girlfriend establishes before agreeing to this arrangement. But they begin to get to know each other through notes. Their correspondence starts when Tiffy leaves a sticky note next to a plate of oatmeal bars, and Leon continues it as he realizes how much of the snack he’s consumed. The pair builds a friendship, sight unseen, and their curiosity about each other grows.
The central conceit of The Flatshare may seem unlikely to some readers, but debut novelist Beth O’Leary has created a sweet, never saccharine tale. She drew inspiration from her doctor boyfriend’s long night shifts, as the couple sometimes wouldn’t see each other for long stretches of time, and she would follow his life based on his empty cups of coffee and other remnants he left behind.
Peppered with amusing quips and multidimensional characters, this quick, engaging read is labeled a romantic comedy, but it also grapples with some of life’s more difficult moments. Even readers skeptical of the novel’s fanciful premise may find themselves surprised by the thoughtful way O’Leary faces not only new love but also the traces of individual pasts.