Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles

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Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Robin Leggett
Reviewed by Robin Leggett
Summary: Stylishly written, problems mount up to farcical levels for a house-sitter in a pristine flat with only one instruction - 'don't let anything happen to the wooden floor'.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: February 2012
Publisher: Harper Press
ISBN: 978-0007424436

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In an unnamed Eastern European city, our equally unnamed narrator is flat-sitting for his university friend, Oskar, a classical music composer with an unhealthy obsession for order and detail, while the latter is away in California in the depths of getting a divorce from his art dealer wife. Oskar's flat is a minimalist paradise, full of artistic cool (Wiles is deputy editor of an architecture and design magazine) while our narrator is a scruffy freelance writer whose best work has been in writing recycling leaflets for his local council. All he has to do is to look after the two cats (somewhat inevitably named after Russian composers) and above all to make sure that nothing happens to Oskar's newly laid and very expensive wooden floor. Oskar has, perhaps helpfully perhaps annoyingly, left extensive instructive notes around the flat. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, just about everything is the answer. Over the space of eight days, disaster leads to catastrophe as things spiral deeper and deeper out of control while our narrator tries to put things right while at the same time tries to justify, at least to himself, how none of this is in any way his fault. The problems come thick and fast and reach almost farcical proportions. One slight word of warning to the more feline-sensitive reader, I use the term catastrophe advisedly and I can imagine that some might find some of these aspects a little upsetting.

Care of Wooden Floors is often very funny and beautifully written throughout. It's full of clever and funny similes and metaphors and the style is neither 'wooden' nor 'flawed'. As the disasters mount up, it can feel quite oppressing but that is probably a sign that the reader is involved in the story. It really is the quality of the writing that make this book stand out though. If the writing style were a character, it would be someone like Stephen Fry - it’s clever and witty but somehow it knows it and yet you forgive it this slight smugness because it is so very funny.

Beyond the central story, the book gives a believable portrayal of a man alone in a strange city. His only contact with the 'locals' are a night out on the town with one of Oskar's friends and several encounters with the scary, dumpy, brusk and non-English speaking cleaning lady who clearly doesn't like Oskar's house-guest - with good reason it turns out.

The book also ends with a nice plot twist that I didn't see coming. My only advice would be not to read this if you are on holiday and have a friend looking after your house while you are away. You'll end up a nervous wreck!

For more brilliantly obscure titles, you might also enjoy A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka, The Atheist's Prayer by Amy R Biddle or Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday.

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Buy Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles at


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