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Care of Wooden Floors [Hardcover]

Will Wiles
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Feb 2012

A bold and brilliant debut from a darkly funny new voice.

Oskar is a minimalist composer best known for a piece called Variations on Tram Timetables. He is married to a Californian art dealer named Laura and he lives with two cats, named after Russian composers, in an Eastern European city. But this book isn't really about Oskar. Oskar is in Los Angeles, having his marriage dismantled by lawyers. He has entrusted an old university friend with the task of looking after his cats, and taking care of his perfect, beautiful apartment.

Despite the fact that Oskar has left dozens of surreally detailed notes covering every aspect of looking after the flat, things do not go well.

Care of Wooden Floors is about how a tiny oversight can trip off a disastrous and farcical (fatal, even) chain of consequences. It's about a friendship between two men who don't know each other very well. It's about alienation and being alone in a foreign city. It's about the quest for perfection and the struggle against entropy. And it is, a little, about how to take care of wooden floors.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (2 Feb 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007424434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007424436
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 372,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Will Wiles is an architecture and design journalist. His first novel, Care of Wooden Floors, was a Waterstones 11 pick and won a Betty Trask award. He lives in London.

Product Description

Review

Radio 4 Book at Bedtime

‘Funny and richly poetic…a surreal, farcical, original first novel’ The Times Books of the Year

‘A very funny novel combining schadenfreude and belly laughs. Just don’t let Wiles flat-sit for you.’ Independent

‘This is a terrific first novel, written with a very engaging deadpan wit, and an understated sense of the absurd.’ Kate Saunders, The Times

‘ingenious…his story has something in common, in terms of manic sensitivity, with Edgar Allan Poes’ The Tell-Tale Heart…[with] deft and precise descriptive asides. This is a smart and polished debut.’ Daily Telegraph

‘This novel acquires the queasy allure of a cliff edge, the sense of impending catastrophe becoming strangely compelling…addictive and rather clever, too.’ Daily Mail

‘Funny, beguiling and quietly profound; a wonderfully well-crafted debut.’ TLS

“A nicely turned satire on the notion that the path to spiritual contentment lies in a pristine set of polished wooden floorboards …Wiles has an eye for beauty, but an even more impressive eye for ugliness… a novel full of impeccably stylish writing…” Guardian

‘A novel about minimalism and chaos, which reveals more about the interaction of architecture and life than many an earnest treatise. If you want above all a good read, get this one.’ Guardian Best Architecture Books of the Year

‘Highly idiosyncratic, well-written, with a vivid sense of place – compelling.’ Michael Frayn

‘Care of Wooden Floors is a wonderful work. Precisely constructed, with an eye that sees in between the everyday spaces of our lives, it sheds new light, not only on ourselves, but on the contemporary novel itself.’ Lee Rourke, author of The Canal

‘The novel’s strength lies in Wiles’s wry depiction of the battle between chaos and order.’ Sunday Times

‘entertainingly conjure[s] up a life lived through aesthetics’ Art Review

‘Wiles is a talent to watch’ The Spectator

‘Compelling’ Independent on Sunday

About the Author

Will Wiles is an architecture and design journalist. He lives in London.

Website: www.willwiles.blogspot.com


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utter genius 1 Nov 2011
By J. Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Care of Wooden Floors is Will Wiles' first novel but it is a masterpiece. Our narrator is charged with looking after the extremely high-end, eastern-European flat of his dear university friend Oskar - a Philharmonic pianist - whilst Oskar is in L.A. getting divorced from his high-end, western-American wife. The job seems simple enough initially, feed the cats, take the rubbish out, oh, and mind the floors, they're brand new & French oak. As our narrator explores the soviet-bloc city and drinks bottle after bottle of Oskar's collection, small mishaps lead to bigger problems and the narrator realises he may have irreparably damaged Oskar's flat & in turn, their friendship - what will he say upon his return?

COWF is very clever; it's initial set-up maybe very simple and you might feel that there is not an awful lot of material to work with, but it's the gradual unpeeling of Oskar via his neurotic hidden notes throughout the flat that brings a fantastic level of character development. The flat becomes a metaphor for perfection; an ideal life that the narrator envies and fantasises about. As the continual stream of destruction and wine-rings the narrator brings flows freely, he learns that some things aren't alive without a few scars as proof of living.

Well written; based in a nameless ex-soviet city and more about a man that is absent for the entirety of the book than it is the narrator, but highly enjoyable, written in vivacious and lucid prose and made me laugh out loud on several occasions. Literature of this calibre from a new author is rare, highly recommended!!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Floor's the Limit 9 May 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book makes a promising start with an intriguing premise but I found myself losing interest as the story progressed. I began to find it more and more unlikely that Oskar would have chosen the narrator to look after his cherished flat though this is explained in part later in the book. In the meantime, I found the action slow, the hero irritating, and the writing a mixture of delightful observations punctuated by overwritten,sometimes silly, similes and metaphors. Perhaps their use was intentional in order to show the character's anxiety resulting from increasing paranoia but I found it at times, self-conscious and overdone. For example, in describing a hangover: "The headache stirred inside me, and the nausea moved like custard under a skin." Or, in finding himself alone, "there was no one in the hall. The silence was patient, understanding." I think the author is a talented writer and I finished the book but would not be drawn to his style in the future.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing that is neither "wooden" nor "flawed" 13 Nov 2011
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
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 (the author is a deputy editor of an architecture and design magazine after all) 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.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By Zipster Zeus VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Well, Will Wiles has certainly slapped down his calling card with great style and humour with this, his debut novel.

The premise of the book is very simple and almost like a sit-com in its staging; in fact one could very easily see this book transferred to the stage in three succinct acts.

The central character-who remains nameless throughout the book- is asked by Oskar, a successful, minimalist classical composer and an old university friend, to housesit his apartment in a nameless Eastern European city for a couple of weeks whilst he sorts out a messy divorce from his Californian wife in LA. The would-be house sitter and narrator is a struggling copywriter producing Health and Safety literature for local councils, but of course has the usual yearnings to be a `proper' writer, and so he jumps at the chance for some time and space to really write and, in a foreign city no less, what could be more perfect.

As such the book consists almost entirely of an interior monologue of this central character, punctuated only occasionally by encounters with a couple of real people, most notably Oskar's formidable cleaner. It is the maintaining of this interior monologue so convincingly for so long- and with such a dry, affecting humour- that is a real testament to the skill of Wiles as an author.

The apartment the central character finds himself in is as he had expected from his knowledge of Oskar as a friend; minimalist in its modernism and immaculately clean, organised and tidy, the only anomaly to its engineered perfection to our narrator's mind, being the presence of two typically independent minded cats.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I liked it. I can just about imagine this sort ...
Whimsical story, black humour. I liked it. I can just about imagine this sort of scenario really happening.
Published 5 days ago by A. J. Adey
5.0 out of 5 stars Hysterically funny
For some reason, when I bought this book I was expecting something else. Certainly, the prose met my expectations. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Helen
4.0 out of 5 stars It creeps up on you
Starts off slow yet holds attention as you are at a loss to know what to expect. There are some shocking heart in mouth yet funny moments and an absolute turn around towards the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Oneten
5.0 out of 5 stars You should buy a copy of this right now
... And then buy a second copy because it's so good that the author deserves a tip. I read it in one sitting during a long layover at Suvarnabhumi, and had an entire row of seats... Read more
Published 5 months ago by D.Z.C.
4.0 out of 5 stars You won't be board
Great to see intelligent writing which is still fun to read. Don't look at the reviews which give away the plot - much better to go into it not realising how it will unfold. Read more
Published 10 months ago by C Summers
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious in a very subtle way!
I really enjoyed this book...it would appeal to anyone with OCD tendencies! The central character was well defined and I loved the author's use of language.
Published 11 months ago by Ke Wood
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story.
Can't believe I laughed out loud so much my family were giving me funny looks! Unexpected little book, so well written, lovely turns of phrase, great humour and all about a floor. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Clare Mcgeary
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
I brought this book on a complete whim and it was one of the best decisions - it's funny, well written, insightful and interesting. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Katherine Brennan
4.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre but fun.
The plot line of this book is very bizarre. It's one of those books set over a short period of time where very little that actually seems important enough to write about takes... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Florence
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark humour, slow but worth it
4.5 stars

Really enjoyed the slow-burn of this, the ridiculous escalation and climax.

Not for all, but good payoff if you are patient. Read more
Published 16 months ago by K. J. Noyes
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