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Care of Wooden Floors [Hardcover]

Will Wiles
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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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: 264,739 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


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.


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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
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Floor Bored 24 Dec 2011
By Tommy Dooley TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
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.
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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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 16 days 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 1 month 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 1 month 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 7 months ago by C Summers
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious in a very subtle way!
I really enjoyed this would appeal to anyone with OCD tendencies! The central character was well defined and I loved the author's use of language.
Published 7 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 8 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 10 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 12 months ago by Florence
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark humour, slow but worth it
Really enjoyed the slow-burn of this, the ridiculous escalation and climax. Not for all, but good payoff if you are patient. Very blackly funny.
Published 12 months ago by K. J. Noyes
5.0 out of 5 stars my son could have written it!
Really interesting development of form and recognisable characterisation for anyone who has been through the grown-up but not quite adult stage. Is it a rite of passage novel?
Published 12 months ago by crazysalad
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