If you’ve been watching my Instagram story over the past few weeks, you’ll know that I’ve been reading (and hating) The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary. I bought this book a few months ago with much excitement because I’ve heard ONLY good things. The Goodreads rating is 4.12/5 stars so I really expected to enjoy it.
You guys have been loving my salty book reviews for The Flatshare so I thought I would milk it for a little longer by doing a book review on my blog as well. So here goes… *rolls eyes*.
trigger warnings for this book: gaslighting, emotional abuse, stalking
Tiffy & Leon share a flat. Tiffy & Leon share a bed. Tiffy & Leon have never met.
Tiffy needs a cheap flat; Leon needs a little extra money. So she lives in his flat after her day shift, and he lives there after his night shift. So they never see each other. At the weekends, Leon stays with his girlfriend so Tiffy has the flat at the weekends, too.
They start leaving each other notes – first it’s about leftovers, and baking, and chores. Then it becomes about her ex boyfriend, and his imprisoned brother and their work lives. From flatmates, to friends, to maybe more?
I went into this book fully expected to love it, but I lowered my expectations a little because I didn’t want to be swayed by the hype. But within 10 pages, I knew I wouldn’t like this… at all.
This is stereotypic British fiction, in which we have these over-exaggerated characters, extremely cringey dialogue, and “jokes” in every single line of the book. My very first note in this book says, “British humour galore” because that is what slaps you in the face when you first open this book.
I think I hate British humour in books, because it’s not even funny. Or maybe because it’s not British humour, it’s English… and as a Scot, we don’t really vibe with the English humour. No offense. 🙂
My main issues with this book were the morally compromised characters (always sexualising each other), the random plot points that the author seemed to create on a whim, the terrible writing in Leon’s chapters, the obvious plot holes, the unrealistic-ness of it all, and the lack of genuine plot movement.
It was a serious struggle to get through this book, but I’m glad I finished so I can genuinely warn you all about this duuuuuuumb book.
I’m going to now break this thing down by different parts, and delve deep.
The characters in this book are all awful. All. Of. Them. And not in the edgy new-adult fiction kind of way, that highlights unlikeable characters that we can see ourselves in. They’re just genuinely all terrible characters, that are supposed to be likable.
Let’s start with Tiffy. Tiffy is this cookie-cutter quirky girl, who’s curvy but sexy, odd but cute, wounded but amazing. I saw someone describe her as the manic pixie dream girl of the novel, and it’s true. Tiffy has this “terrible past” that only comes to light halfway through the book, and it is never foreshadowed. Therefore, I couldn’t get on board with her weeping and wailing throughout the book, because it didn’t seem there was really anything to be upset about. Then the author throws in this tragic backstory that was over-exaggerated and felt “made up on the spot”. But by that point, I’d already established that Tiffy was this overbearing, annoying, complaining, “woe-is-me” type of character. So I didn’t really have much sympathy for her. Another huge thing that annoyed me about Tiffy is that she moves into Leon’s flat (a flat in which he still lives) yet decorates the whole flat to suit her style. Like, sorry, girl, this isn’t your flat. She just has her way – all the time.
Now, onto Leon. I swayed a lot with this man. At first, I thought, ok – kind of sweet. Clearly hurting about something. Sensitive. Kind. But as the book went on, he lost all substance to me. He became nothing more than a man on a mission – and it didn’t matter who he hurt in the process. As long as he came out of the novel with three things: his pride, his brother and his girl. He kind of did anything to get that. He was horrible to Kay (she was also horrible to him), but he didn’t care about her from the start. He didn’t listen to her boundaries (she didn’t want him having a female flatmate living in his bed, I don’t think that’s that ridiculous). So I struggle to believe he’ll be all that great a boyfriend to Tiffy. But whatever. My main issue with Leon is how much he sexualises Tiffy! From the moment they meet in the bathroom (more on that later), all he can think about is her body. He refers to her as a “scantily clad lady”, and that it’s not fair that she wasn’t wearing much. Well, it is actually because she lives there, too, so at some point, she’s going to have to get undressed. He then goes on to think about her “red lace bra. Ridiculously perfect breasts.” This is after the first meeting. It just made me dislike him so much that the first time he meets a girl, that’s all he can think about.
Rachel. Oh my gosh, Rachel. She’s not a major character but she is my least favourite. She never has Tiffy’s best interests at heart. The first real story we have about her is her getting Tiffy drunk to deliver the bad news that her ex is now engaged. What kind of good friend (which Tiffy tells us so many times that she is) gets their friend drunk to deliver such sad news? It’s just so bad. Then she goes on and on about sex the rest of the novel, before scheduling two hours to talk about boobs because apparently, Tiffy hasn’t been using hers right all her life (what even?). There’s only so much you can say about boobs. Why do you need two hours to go over the basics? They’re there. They feed babies. They have nipples. End of story. But okay.
Justin. Justin, Justin, Justin. Justin is a jerk, that’s not debatable. He clearly two-timed Tiffy, yet for some reason, let her keep living with him. I don’t know, the whole situation made no sense. There was not one good thing about him yet Tiffy kept going on and on and on about Justin. I really did not care, because he seemed like an ass yet she couldn’t shut up about him. Then he starts appearing everywhere she is, and we get examples of him “gaslighting” her. But gaslighting is a very subtle way of psychological manipulation. Justin is not subtle. He literally lies to Tiffy to say that she accepted his proposal even though there were like 1,000 witnesses. So although he’s a jerk, the author did not do a good job of writing the gaslighting subplot.
Richie was fine? But again, sexualised Tiffy all the time without ever having seen her. Gerty and Mo were apparently these amazing friends, yet hid their relationship from Tiffy the whole time, and also never told Tiffy that she was in an abusive relationship or protected her from it. Martin was the “villain” in the end, but did I care? No. The Johnny White subplot was the most boring thing in the world and only there so the author could show that she had a “diverse cast” by bringing in one gay couple. It really read like it was inserted last minute to pass some kind of publishing requirement of 2019.
So overall, yeah, I hated the characters which is never going to help when it comes to enjoying a book.
I didn’t expect there to be a massive plot, since I thought it would mostly rely on cutesy notes and juicy drama. But this plot is not at all what I expected. The main plot points include bailing someone out of jail for a crime they didn’t commit, editing a crocheting book, overcoming a traumatic relationship, saving a little girl from dying of cancer, and then the romance. Every subplot had a completely different tone, and nothing tied together nicely. It was very unpleasant to read about a romance, to a dying little girl that wasn’t even a main character, to Richie’s phone calls from jail. There wasn’t a good flow to this book at all, in my opinion, and that made for a jumbled reading experience. Unfortunately.
I think if the plot had been more centered around the actual flatshare, I would have enjoyed it more. Instead, I got this weird romance story where they passed back a few (and I mean… a few) notes, before meeting halfway through the book (which I expected to come a lot later), before there were like 5 attempted sex scenes, attempted love triangles and attempted romances.
But by the 3/4 of the way through the book, when the romance starts to blossom, I was already bored. I couldn’t get on board with it. The author made me wait so long for anything to even happen, that I had lost all my cares in the world.
I also need to talk about sex. There is so much reference to sex in this book, yet when it comes to actually having sex – it is the cringiiiiiiiiest thing in the world. I honestly felt like I was reading sex scenes by somebody who has never had sex. Nothing that goes down between them felt natural, sexy or lovely. It was just all awkward and desperate and weird. There is this line… “He does something with his hand that nobody has ever done before. I have no idea what’s happening but it seems to involve his thumb, my nipple, and about five thousand prickly hot licks of sensation.” What is he doing here? How does one produce hot licks of sensation? How does one produce those with just their hands? Also since when is Leon the only person to ever touch a nipple with a thumb? I am grimacing.
I hated the writing style of this book, specifically Leon’s chapters. He writes in this short, snappy, incomplete style. For example, “Conversation re flat not at all as predicted… Seemed upset at idea of someone else sleeping in my bed besides her? Hates the dark green walls and eldery neighbours… Argument ends at weary impasse…” It was just so frustrating to read. (Grammarly is flagging up this sentence from Leon like there’s no tomorrow.)
Also – it just felt that generally this book wasn’t edited. O’Leary thanks her editors at the end of the book, so she must have had them – but it just feels like they missed a lot of mistakes.
One huge mistake is when there’s a new month (a whole page dedicated to this change of a month) but Tiffy is still sitting in the same spot, at the same party, with the same guy, in September, as she was in August?! I couldn’t do anything but laugh.
At another time, Leon describes someone’s race as “intermediate” – whatever the heck that means.
We have some pretty poor similes, such as “Humiliation is like mould: ignore it and the whole place will get smelly and green.” I’m pretty sure that humiliation doesn’t do that.
And then general crap like (from Leon’s perspective), “She’s drunk and injured – you don’t kiss drunk injured women. Do you? Maybe you do. Maybe she wanted that?” Um… NO. This is the male romantic interest that I’m supposed to swoon for? Sorry. Over it.
Lastly, I could not deal with the insane amount of inner dialogue. Every single thought that Tiffy had is on paper. Every. Single. One. Ever heard of show, don’t tell?
The author needs to know everything about their characters before starting the book, or at least before publishing it. I’m not convinced Beth O’Leary did.
This is where my plot holes come into view.
- Tiffy has this tragic backstory about Justin gaslighting her. And maybe I missed the foreshadowing (I’d have to reread to be sure, but we all know that isn’t happening!), but I didn’t notice it at all. Justin and Tiffy are already broken up when the book starts, so I didn’t have an option to analyse their relationship, but her friends did. And they clearly don’t like Justin, but they never warned Tiffy that he was abusive. In fact, they spurred her on when she wanted to gossip about him. They seemed to enjoy the anecdotes of him stalking her. Once, when she calls them up to talk about him, they say, “Justin. An oldie, but a goodie!” (in terms of gossip). Yet, all of a sudden, Tiffy realises that he was emotionally abusive, and when she tells her friends, they’re like, “Duh. We know.” …… So when why didn’t you tell her? They claim because Tiffy needed to find out for herself, but I’M SOrrY – what? If your friend is in an abusive relationship, and still making themselves available to hear your opinion… you tell them. And if you can’t tell them, for whatever reason, then you don’t spur them on or romanticise elements of this person.
- Another thing I wasn’t convinced by was Richie being in jail. There was literally no evidence that he committed the crime he was in jail for. When Gerty gets involved in the case, she asks seriously simple questions about CCTV and witnesses, and everyone is like, “OMG why didn’t we think of that”. Maybe because Beth O’Leary didn’t think of it? It just made the whole thing dumb and lacking tension, because we all knew that Richie would be found innocent. So I wasn’t excited at all when he won his court case.
- The whole crocheting thing really bothered me. I know that random things like Slime gets popular, and has its moment and dies down again, so I’m not saying that crocheters can’t get famous, but…. okay, can they? Katherin is your typical annoying know-it-all but kind-under-the-surface old lady who we all hate to love. But guess what? She’s also a famous crocheter. And that just drove me bonkers. I’m sorry, but I’m not interested in the boring behind the scenes of crocheting. It made it even more annoying when Justin showed up to all these crocheting events. Why else would he actually be there except to spook Tiffy? And then she can’t believe he’s there, and has this racing inner dialogue about how weird it is that he showed up? Use your brain, Tiffy. There is literally no other reason a young man would be at this crocheting even other than to see you.
My issues with the ending.
- Apparently, Tiffy & Leon got rid of their TV to fit in a sofa bed. Right. Ok. First, stupid. Second, you can put TVs on walls.
- Tiffy is so shocked at Leon’s scavenger hunt. Like – stop, we all know you’re getting proposed to in .05 seconds.
- Leon isn’t even there when he proposed to Tiffy. He does it through a note which is obviously cute in terms of their unique relationship, but he’s not even there!! He’s not even hiding somewhere to pop out and see her reaction to his note. He’s waiting in a hotel room God knows where, waiting for her to come to him with her answer. Laziest proposal ever.
- Final issue with the ending is that it did not come soon enough. Lol
Last note: My biggest issue with this book, despite all the problematic stuff, is that for the whole time Tiffy & Leon were sharing a bed, they also shared sheets. They did not have their own sets of sheets that they swapped between during night & day. I’m sorry. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU GUYS? They. Just. Shared.
One more thing: Tiffy says she can’t wait to try Leon’s stroganoff straight from the oven. Babe, here’s a recipe for mushroom stroganoff and it doesn’t ever go in the oven. 🙂