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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utter genius
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...
Published on 1 Nov 2011 by J. Morris

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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Floor's the Limit
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...
Published on 9 May 2012 by Ration Nations


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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utter genius, 1 Nov 2011
By 
J. Morris "Josh" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Care of Wooden Floors (Hardcover)
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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
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This review is from: Care of Wooden Floors (Hardcover)
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 (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Care of Wooden Floors (Hardcover)
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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 (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. 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 houseguest - 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!
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gentle Farce Used Cleverly to Explore our Flawed, 21st Century Psyche, 17 Jan 2012
By 
Zipster Zeus (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Care of Wooden Floors (Hardcover)
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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. Oskar has however left detailed instructions for him even to the point of leaving notes hidden all over the place, which even at times appear to uncannily pre-empt any problems the narrator may encounter.

There are in particular instructions given to the care of his precious, expensive and unvarnished wood flooring and any 'problems' he may have with them. And of course problems the narrator most certainly does encounter in an increasingly hapless- and darkly hilarious- way as the week progresses...

It would be easy to describe the unfolding of events in the flat under the narrator's watch over this fateful week as pure farce- but the overall unfurling of the story is deeper, darker and more affecting in its human complexities than that of `mere' farce, although a primary driving force of the book - and the one that refers firmly back to its sit-com premise time and again- is one that clearly, unashamedly references that form. Wiles however pulls off a more interesting, intellectual take on the narrator's week that gives the reader more substance to chew on rather than just groans and laughs and, cleverly, weaves in the complicated psychosis of not just the narrator, but also of a character- Oskar of course- that never actually appears in the book in person, in `real-time' -apart from during a telephone call at the end- that provides an elegant denouement to the whole tale.

Actually the book is in fact a neat situationist take on the characters of the narrator and Oskar. To my mind this makes the location- an eastern European city once subject to the rigours of authoritarianism, and now succumbing to the asymmetrical forces of free-market capitalism- a perfect foil for the inner tensions and shifting mind-sets of the two central characters. In fact the author at certain parts of the narrative subtly draws attention to these political, economic and societal movements at work in the city's past and present when he ventures out into the city centre-most notably when he visits a local museum, a concert then a lap-dancing club- that such a place has to be a very deliberate location on his part in which to centre his situationist explorations.

However despite the surprising and pleasing intellectual basis of this book, Wile's never loses the ability of exploring human frailty, self-delusion and insecurity with the lightest of touches which, at times, are genuinely hilarious. You can sense from the outset that the narrator is doomed to a week that is going to fall apart and that it will happen largely through events not of his making- but I personally ended up cheering him along despite his own delusions and frantic excuse-makings [all of them incidentally to himself] until he does actually emerge from the story as some unusual- and very typical and unwilling- English hero.

It has to be said there are to my mind a couple of rather weak passages that could have been edited out- the narrators musings on pornography and the displays at a lap-dancing clubs are unnecessary and trite in an awkwardly `teenage' way. They nonetheless still do not manage to detract from the overall accomplishment of this wonderful book and why I really can't give it anything less than a five star rating.

I do hope Will Wiles isn't a one-trick pony; there's the germ of a new, original, great British voice here and goodness knows when you look at the shortlists our establishment literary award panels come up with, we need as many new ones as possible these days. I'll be looking out for him in the future with more than a little anticipation. So give this book a go...I'm sure you won't be disappointed.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty and full of twists, 16 Feb 2012
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This review is from: Care of Wooden Floors (Hardcover)
Witty and full of twists.

There really is no need to go all through the plot yet again for every review !

A brilliant book. I don't think "comic" is the best word for it, though. It is actually very thought-provoking and, in its way, serious. It could be called "A study of modern urban life as reflected in the effort devoted to the care of wooden floors".

One wonders why the narrator is so much at war with the cleaner, when he is only trying to clean the floor, and presumably cleaning the floor is HER job . Yet we have all found ourselves in this position, tidying up the room before the chambermaid arrives.

I think there is a flaw in the plot which Hercule Poirot would notice, but presumably that is all part of the fun.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Light slapstick story with a perverse streak, 22 Dec 2011
This review is from: Care of Wooden Floors (Hardcover)
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This was an odd book. There is a lot to like about it. There are also a few things not to love.

The setting in an unidentified foreign country and the slightly detached, slightly awkward writing style made me assume it was an English translation of an Eastern European writer. The story has that Polish quality of smirking at the little man with big ideas faced with the cruel absurdity of life.* It wasn't until an hour or two into the book that I realised that the lead character was British. That made me question if it was a translation. As far as I can tell it's not, but I have to say the writing has that stilted quality you sometimes get from a translation.**

I don't want to suggest that it's badly written. More that the writer has a slightly pedantic and stiff style.

I never struggled with the book, but I did question myself a few times if I was really enjoying it. I kept going and got over any humps I came across and quickly got back into it. I enjoyed reading it despite those occasional moments of doubt. I have to confess I skipped a few pages when he left the apartment and went and did the tourist thing. That section simply didn't appeal to me and felt irrelevant.

The mostly absent character of Oskar was very intriguing. I get the feeling he might be a character the author could return to for future unconnected books.

The ending with the cleaner might go a bit too far for some readers. Personally I liked it, even if it is a bit out of keeping with the fairly realistic tone that had gone before it. I don't think it pushed too far overboard. And Oskar's intentions at the end made the story feel complete and satisfying. It was a book I was glad to have stuck with and finished.

The story is an interesting idea of someone trying to keep an easily damaged floor in perfect condition. The drawback is that it's an idea that is maybe more suited to a short story. Or a slapstick short film. It didn't feel overextended as a full length novel, as something new was always happening, but I did feel the writer didn't quite have the chops to make it truly convince that it had to be this length. A few cuts here and there and it could be half as long. It's not like it was an in-depth character piece with oodles of pages devoted to complex backstory and the inner lives of everyone.

If you have a perverse nature that enjoys cruel stories that toy with people like they are chess pieces then you should get a kick out of this book.

I liked the novel despite the slightly stiff writing style and the lack of a large complex story. I would cautiously recommend it.

* I'm specifically thinking of a good obscure Jeremy Irons film from 1982 called Moonlighting by a Polish writer, director. It concerns Polish workers who travel to London to renovate a house, and end up trapped in the country when there is a military takeover.

** After writing this review I web searched the author. He is a British writer (and deputy editor of an architecture magazine).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book!, 17 Nov 2011
By 
Laura Smith (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Care of Wooden Floors (Hardcover)
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I can't remember a time when a book made me gasp so much! Each farcical turn of events seemed to be worse than the last, and I found myself shaking my head and imagining what i would have done differently, were I the main character. A great story, I was really disappointed when it came to an end.
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4.0 out of 5 stars You won't be board, 5 Sep 2013
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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. And I defy you to read the description of a red wine hangover without feeling queasy, even if you haven't had a drink in weeks.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dark humour, slow but worth it, 29 Mar 2013
By 
K. J. Noyes "Katy Noyes" (Derbyshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Care of Wooden Floors (Paperback)
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.

Very blackly funny.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A book to read at different levels, 9 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Care of Wooden Floors (Paperback)
Though the subject seems farcical it addresses itself, in fact, to a much deeper philosophical consideration. Subtly and skilfully written. There are carefully conveyed hints given of the deeper meaning right from the first pages. Much better written than the impression I received on first hearing it on Book at Bedtime (Radio 4)
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Care of Wooden Floors
Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles (Paperback - 30 Aug 2012)
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