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The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
- Publisher: FlatIron Books
- Genre: Contemporary Romance
- Audience: Adult
- Pages: 328 (paperback)
- Trigger Warnings: gaslighting, emotional abuse
- Tropes Included: sharing one bed, friends to lovers
The Flatshare has been making the rounds like crazy around BookTok.
And because I’ve recently been branching out into genres I previously never read, I thought The Flatshare should be next on my list.
The Flatshare just reinforced my love-hate relationship with BookTok. While wildly entertaining, 90% of the recommended books from “readers” on there make me seriously question if the people recommending them can even read.
“It’s weird how easily you can get to know someone from the traces they leave behind when they go.”The Flatshare by Beth o’leary
I honestly don’t understand the hype for The Flatshare. Quite honestly, it’s probably one of my top 5 worst reads in 2021 and in my list of top 10 worst reads ever. And I’ve read quite a few awful things in my time (AHEM, college reading).
As the story opens up, we meet Tiffy who has just gotten out of a difficult relationship with her long-term partner, Justin.
Because they’re the typical on-again-off-again couple, she hadn’t believed their relationship was truly over until he brought another woman home to their shared apartment that she still hadn’t moved out of.
Upon realizing that their relationship is well and truly over, Tiffy sets out to find an apartment that is both affordable and available ASAP. Tiffy works for minimum wage at a sort of DIY business as part of its editorial staff, so her ideal rent is extremely low, and in the end the only thing she’s able to find is an opportunity to share a flat with Leon, whom is a doctor working the night shift at his hospital.
The terms of their living arrangement are strict.
Leon gets the apartment during the day to sleep while Tiffy is at work. And while he’s at work during the evenings, Tiffy gets the apartment for the nights. Weekends are also Tiffy’s as Leon will stay with his extremely jealous and hostile girlfriend Katy, who has declared that she never wants Tiffy and Leon to meet face to face.
Over the course of the six month living arrangement, Tiffy and Leon leave post-it notes to each other in order to communicate… which soon turns to sharing more details of their lives until a friendship emerges, with the potential for something more. But as their relationship deepens, the trauma of Tiffy’s past relationship with Justin, coupled with his suspiciously convenient reappearances, threatens to destroy her chances at moving on.
Where to begin? Perhaps I’ll start with the aspects of The Flatshare that bothered me most. Because why not?
I remember scrolling through reviews of The Flatshare on Goodreads after having finished it, wanting to know what people were thinking of the WTF mess of Leon’s POV. I remember reading someone compare the narration of his POV to school notes, which I agree with 100%. Personal pronouns were cut from the narrative, leaving the chapters flat and detached.
I will attach a sample to exemplify what I’m talking about:
“Drift around wards, checking charts, giving fluids. Speak to patients and amaze myself by managing to sound normal...”
See what I’m talking about?
This isn’t just an occasional occurrence. ALL of Leon’s POV (half the book as he and Tiffy switch off narrating every other chapter) is written this way.
Perhaps this is a stylistic choice, a very pointed choice (and regrettable choice) made by the author to convey something about Leon’s personality or psychological state, but it just… sucked.
There’s absolutely no way to build Leon’s character and make readers care about him if he reads like the instructions for a biology lab. I felt nothing for him. I couldn’t even dislike him really because I just didn’t feel like he was real enough to care about.
Another issue with Leon’s POV, which also might be a carefully selected stylistic decision by the author was that while dialogue happening in Tiffy’s POV was in quotes to signify it, the dialogue in Leon’s POV read like the manuscript for a screenplay.
For the sake of seeing if you agree with me, I’ll provide you with an example:
Kay, on the other end of phone: Honestly, Leon. I think if you had your way, all of your friends would be over the age of eighty. Me: He was an interesting man and I enjoyed speaking to him. And -- concert pianist! World's coolest profession, no? Amused silence from Kay. Me: Still seven to go, though. Kay: Seven what? Me: Seven Johnny Whites. Kay: Oh yeah.
Besides the massive issues I had with Leon’s POV, there’s Tiffy. I felt alright about Tiffy. There was not much development or fleshing out of her character either. The only thing we really get from her is some flashbacks she has about her bad moments with her ex, Justin, and the emotional side of her trying to work through that trauma. It made me feel for her a little bit, but I still felt disconnected, which I believe has a lot to do with the writing style of the author.
And while we are on the topic of writing style, I felt the style was really disconnected from the characters.
While it was technically from Tiffy and Leon’s POV, it definitely felt like someone was telling me the story of them rather than them telling their own stories which signifies to me a lack of connection between the author and her characters. The distance and joltiness of the writing pulled me out of the story rather than helping me become immersed in it.
Overall, all these things combined to form a feeling of nothingness.
I didn’t care about the characters, I didn’t care about the plot, and I sure didn’t see any chemistry in the romance. I was completely underwhelmed. the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to care about any aspect of the story whatsoever was disappointing to say the least.
The Flatshare by Beth O'LearyThe Flatshare by Beth O'Leary
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Let’s Chat in the Comments!
What are your views on BookTok recommendations? Do you think that most BookTokers have bad taste? Or have you liked a majority of what you’ve been recommended by them? What BookTok recommendations have you tried and either loved or hated?
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