This is a charming and lovely piece of contemporary fiction from Beth O'Leary that takes an interesting premise of a one bedroom flat in London being shared by two occupants who never meet, each in residence, sleeping in the same bed, when the other is out or working. A more exploitative version of this is the overcrowded sharing of accommodation in the desperate working conditions experienced by trafficked, illegal and migrant workers. This is a more benign and comic take focusing on the dire financial straits many workers face in a city with sky high rents. Compassionate palliative care nurse, Leon Twomey, a man of few words has a girlfriend, Kay, and a younger brother, Richie, in prison after being framed for armed robbery. Leon needs money to pay Richie's lawyer to secure an appeal hearing, so Tiffany 'Tiffy' Moore moves in, and for months they never meet, their paths never cross, but a quirky and offbeat relationship develops between the pair of them through the form of post-it notes.
Tiffy is still hankering after her ex-boyfriend, the wealthy and manipulative Justin who has evicted her from his flat after getting involved with another woman. She is an assistant editor for a niche independent DIY and crafts publisher, overworked and paid a pittance. Her star client author is Katherin, a woman who writes books on the art of crocheting, and who will do nothing without Tiffy in attendance. Tiffy is supported by her friends, counsellor Mo and hotshot barrister, Gerty, and fellow workmate, Rachel. It gradually begins to emerge that Tiffy's relationship with Justin was a much darker and murkier affair as Tiffy begins to experience disturbing feelings and flashbacks. Upset and slowly beginning to recognise that she was a victim of emotional abuse, she is startled to discover just how much Gerty and Mo hated Justin for what he was doing to her, but had kept silent, knowing Tiffy would never have listened to them. Leon is familiar with emotional abuse, having seen his mother experience it at the hands of the type of men she chose as he was growing up.
Beth O'Leary writes a captivating novel that shines thanks to her stellar characterisation, you cannot help but fall for Tiffy and Leon, and the brilliant supporting cast of Richie, Gerty, Mo and Rachel. Then there are Leon's terminal patients at the hospice, for whom Leon will do anything, like embarking on finding the lost love of the crocheting Mr Robert Prior, and the young, feisty Holly, smart enough to intuit she is Leon's favourite patient, despite him never saying it. This is such an appealing, fun and entertaining read, whilst touching on the most serious of issues of abuse and miscarriages of justice. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Quercus for an ARC.