27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
When I read the description of Care Of Wooden Floors, I knew I would enjoy it. Being a Kafka and Poe fan and loving a dark little tale, this book did not disappoint. The first third or so intriqued me and then the second half had me reading and reading to find out what ultimately happens at the end. I couldn't put it down, I tried, but I was obsessed. I had a horrible headache, was tired, and still I kept reading.
I enjoyed this book. It was like a voyeuristic view into someone's life when things go horribly wrong. Oskar is a musician and he is also a controlling, neat-freak. He has an old college friend, who remains nameless in this account, who he beckons to watch over his flat and cats while he takes a trip to LA. The country Oskar lives in seems to be an old Soviet stomping ground and the flat is simple but elegantly decorated. Its flooring is very expensive and expands the entire flat.
When Oskar's friend arrives, he hopes to get down to some serious creativity and have a rebirth with his writing. Oskar has always been an over achiever in life and his friend, quite the opposite. The friend who watches the flat comes from London, and his life is filled with his own imperfections and flaws. He has always been in a kind of awe that Oskar is his friend, being the perfect human that Oskar strives to be. The housesitter isn't the only one, Oskar seems to be the envy of others as well, because isn't success and perfection what people strive for?
Once at the flat, as he tries to settle in, the housesitter begins to find notes. They are in books, cd cases, in drawers and elsewhere. They instruct him as to where supplies are and what needs to be done and in general contain comments about what the friend may be doing inside the flat. It's quite puzzling to the housesitter. How would Oskar know which CD he would play, or which book he would pick up? And are there thousands of such notes tucked everywhere around the apartment?
The book also goes back in time and touches upon Oskar's and the sitter's relationship throughout the years. It studies their agreements and disagreements and their relationships with other people. It seems as though the housesitter can never quite pinpoint why he is Oskar's friend in the first place, though he seems proud to have a friend who has planned out his life and goes after what he wants and actually realizes what he wants and attempts to conquer it. The sitter has kind of bobbed around like a cork.
The wooden floors in the flat are to be watched over. They are perfect. The sitter drawn to the supply of wine Oskar has stored begins to make some serious mistakes as far as spilling goes, and then there are the cats. The cats have strict rules as well. They are to stay in the bedroom, go out at night and have certain feeding times. It's not that hard, but with Oskar's perfection nagging at him, the sitter begins to make a sort of comedy of errors and he takes the reader along for the ride. It reminded me, vaguely, of when I use my husband's car. It's like if you drink something somewhere you are not supposed to: there is a 99.5 percent chance that you'll spill, the .5 percent that you don't, is pure luck.
I felt that this book could have been entirely depressing if it had not been for the spirit and optimism of the housesitter and the talents of Will Wiles. Though life does become a sort of desparate challenge in the story, all hope is never lost.
With the omniscient narrative throughout the book, we are not left out of any detail. While I found the detail interesting, others may not. This book is a sort of psychological study that unearths some interesting truths that you'll have to read the book to find out, but I found the effects of reading it, lingering. For me, this was a really good read. This writer is very talented and I hope this is the beginning of many books to come.
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2012
A well-written and intriguing book. Both sad and laugh-out-loud funny. Lots of wonderful observations about life. Difficult to pigeon-hole into a genre - certainly amusing, but the central characters are so flawed that one feels a deepening sense of despair as the story progresses. Wiles manages to describe an unfolding series of disasters believably, without the whole descending into farce; but, events towards the end are so startling and unresolved that I lost empathy with the main character, which spoilt the book slightly for me. However, I would certainly recommend 'Care of Wooden Floors' as a good read.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
This tells the story of our hero, who we never get to actually know the name of, who has been asked to look after his friends flat. He is a minimalist composer and has some sort of OCD perfectionist thing going on. He, Oskar, has to decamp to America to sort out his impending divorce and leaves his friend to `care' for his flat. That is he must look after the two cats and not damage to very expensive French oak floor that Oskar has had put down.
What follows is a catalogue of mini disasters that are blown out of all proportion as they are juxtaposed to the reaction Oskar will have when he finds out. Our hero likes a drink and it is fair to say that wine has a hand in many a misfortune. The ending is well thought out and took me by surprise. I actually really liked this book because of the writing style. Will Wiles can spin a yarn and has a style that is both intelligent and yet has that common touch that you need when being funny in prose. There is a lot of tension and schadenfreude around the antics that are taking place. It is the subject matter that I found a bit off putting, the title says it all, we are talking about a novel whose central theme is that taking care of a dysfunctional floor, for an obsessed nutter who writes symphonies about tram time tables.
That said it is an easy read, but the intense lack of action is sometimes padded by the overly long analysis of how our hero is feeling - it has a touch of the 19th Century Russian Novel about it in places. Still this is far from a dull read and I would happily read any future offerings from Mr Wiles.
36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
One or two other characters make brief appearances, but basically there's just one character, our unnamed narrator who carries almost all of the weight in this novel. Naturally clumsy and careless, he is a Mr. Bean sort of person who inevitably damages or breaks things and makes the situation much worse when he tries to undo the damage.The experience of living by himself in his friend Oscar's pristine, perfect, ultra-modern apartment, after the squalor of his own basement flat, puts a great deal of strain on him, and it's not long before he has his first minor accident when he spills some red wine on Oscar's precious hardwood floor.
Various misadventures involving the floors, cats, wild dogs, more red wine ,vomit, and a crazy cleaning lady follow, each of which makes things worse and complicates our hapless hero's situation, until, by the end, events seem ridiculous and strain reader belief to the breaking point.
The book is well written, clever, and, especially at the beginning, very funny; however, I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it had been closer to two-hundred pages, instead of the three-hundred which it is.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2013
The premise is what intrigued me about this book - a man looking after a friend's flat and messing up the wood floors. However, after the first chapter (as stated in days, as Day 1, Day 2, etc.) the story line went nowhere. Every mishap that befalls our hero is totally unbelievable, and there are many tangents that lead nowhere (like why the strip club? What's up with the wild dogs?) and have nothing to do with the plot. We do not really know much about the main character, in fact we know much more about Oskar the flat's absent owner. Also, I found the author's voice a bit too clever and wordy for me, and skimmed skimmed skimmed to get back to the story. I got tired reading every word. For example, it seemed like every day the unnamed protagonist woke with with a hang over and I didn't need three of four pages of first person description about waking up with a hangover (or a loud thump, or someone banging on the door, etc.). I plowed though till the end to get some closure, but the ending was very weak, and left a couple of things hanging (like what about Ada and the knife wound?). I was expecting more and was glad to have finished.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
It's kind of hard to categorize this one. The author gives us pages and pages of descriptive information throughout. I have to confess I began to skip some of this about half way through the book. It was just exhausting. However I can appreciate the writing, it's intelligent and clear. But let me go back a bit and try to give a hint of what the story is about. An old college room mate (Oskar) calls our protagonist, a Brtish copywriter, to request that his friend housesit and care for his two cats while he, Oskar, is in California being divorced. An agreement is quickly reached and the college buddy (I can't recall seeing his name anywhere) flies off to some dreary foreign city in some dreary foreign country to have a respite from his own boring life, and to work on a novel he had wanted to write for ages. From the start the setting, once he reaches Oskar's house, is odd and uncomfortably sterile in keeping with Oskar's personality. There are notes everywhere telling our Brit how to take care of the piano, the furniture, the kitchen, and the cats. But MOST importantly he must be diligent in his care of the golden wood floors which were special ordered and crafted for this house. They are Oskar's greatest treasure. As one might guess, the floors will never be the same once Oskar's friend has lived with them. Our protagonist is a bumbler and something of a slob. One wonders throughout the story why on earth Oskar would ever choose HIM for his house sitter. OR for that matter, his cat sitter.
As the days drag slowly on, the house sitter makes small mistakes, has accidents and spills that become monumental in very little time. It's unnerving to read of all these things, but as the end nears it becomes creepy. If you choose to read this book, and I'm not sure I would choose it again, you will find there are spots where you will laugh out loud at the dry humor and stupidity of the protagonist. He's an amazing character. And too, so is Oskar. I kept thinking that this story could never in a million years end well. But I believe if you stick with it to the very last page you WILL like the ending.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2012
Our unnamed narrator in an unnamed Eastern European city has agreed to take on what should be a simple task: house-sit an apartment and two cats while his friend Oskar is away in L.A. taking care of his divorce settlement. Easy, right? Unfortunately, Oskar is anything but easygoing. He has left a frenzy of ultra-specific notes all around the apartment, detailing how to care for everything in sight (right down to the CD player) and giving stern warnings (the piano says "Do Not Play"), particularly about his beloved wooden floors. Well, predictably, things do not go well. What starts as a simple wine stain on the floor (oh no!) soon threatens to take over our hero's mental health.
The novel's dry wit is charming and engaging. I particularly liked how Oskar, who is absent from the apartment, is actually more present than our narrator who is living there. His presence is everywhere, from the notes, to the obsessive orderliness, to his favourite music. His apartment reflects his personality so much that it starts to overtake the narrator's own personality (it's no accident that we never learn the narrator's name, or even the name of the city. All there is is Oskar...well, and his cats). It's like Oskar says, First you make your room and then the room makes you.
For more reviews, please visit my blog, CozyLittleBookJournal.
Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2012
I have been raving about this book to my friends as I was reading it and I was up until 1:00 AM this morning finishing it. I won't bother summarizing the plot, others have done a fine job with that.
I will talk about the writing and the humor of this novel. It is very funny and droll but it is also terrifying in a way. Comparisons have been made to Kafka, but Mr. Wiles work reminds me most of a very good T.C. Boyle story, expertly drawn out to novel length.
I would not have thought I would care so much about about some spilled wine and a floor. Wiles manages the tension of the story with great skill but more importantly, he takes the reader somewhere worth going.
While the book can certainly be read and enjoyed as a comic fable and cautionary tale, it also a very true meditation on the nature of friendship and the ways in which we know ourselves and others.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2012
depressing and weird...need to say more??? not sure what the point is/was....and i had really high hopes based on other reviews
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
There is one strand of the story that remains loose at the end of the story, which annoyed me. That aside, I absolutely loved this book. The main character and narrator winds up flat sitting for an old friend from college. Said friend, Oskar, is very particular about the care and condition of his home and most importantly of the wooden floors of his flat. This was a hook for me right of the bat because I know someone this character reminds me of. This character is a amped up a bit by comparison but none the less it was a great starting point for me. We never learn the name of the narrator, though once I do recall he hears someone call his name. This doesn't bother me. The flat is in a purposely unidentified part of Europe which also does not bother me. This is a roller coaster of a tale to take place on and surrounding a flat but incredibly valuable floor and it's meticulous owner. Interestingly the OCD type flat resident picks a nice but not necessarily responsible or appropriate caretaker while he needs to be out of the country during the summer. A bit of wine spills and then the story opens wide up and races along from one uncomfortable scene to the next. I couldn't get from page to page fast enough. There was suspense and tension and it was so enjoyable for me. Most of all the ending, I never would have seen it coming. Fabulous! This will not be everyone's cup of tea but for me it was spot on, no pun intended.