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Care of Wooden Floors

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Overview

A British copywriter stays for a week at his composer friend Oskar’s elegant, ultramodern apartment in a glum Eastern European city. The instructions are simple: feed the cats, don’t touch the piano, and make sure nothing harms the priceless wooden floors. Content for the first time in ages, he accidentally spills some wine. Over the course of a week, both the apartment and the narrator’s sanity fall apart in this original and “weirdly addictive” (Daily Mail) novel.

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Overview

A British copywriter stays for a week at his composer friend Oskar’s elegant, ultramodern apartment in a glum Eastern European city. The instructions are simple: feed the cats, don’t touch the piano, and make sure nothing harms the priceless wooden floors. Content for the first time in ages, he accidentally spills some wine. Over the course of a week, both the apartment and the narrator’s sanity fall apart in this original and “weirdly addictive” (Daily Mail) novel.

As the situation in and out of the sleek apartment spirals out of control, more of Oskar’s notes appear, taking on an insistent — even sinister — tone. Care of Wooden Floors is a must-listen for anyone who’s ever bungled a housesitting gig, or felt inferior to a perfectionist friend — that is to say, all of us.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This darkly humorous novel from U.K. journalist Wiles involves a nameless protagonist whose eight days of house-sitting turn out to be a lot more hassle than he bargained for. A freelance copywriter in London does his old university friend, Oskar, now a classical musician, a big favor by staying in his “nice flat” located in an unspecified and dour Slavic city. Oskar is a “borderline obsessive-compulsive” who leaves very specific instructions on a number of notes posted throughout the flat, including not only the care of cats Shossy and Stravvy, but, of greater importance, that of the expensive French oak floors. Oskar, in L.A. to deal with divorcing his wife, intends to return soon to his “island of perfection.” Unfortunately, the befuddled protagonist is a hapless caretaker; he lets one of Oskar’s cats die (via piano lid) and, perhaps worse, he spills red wine on the floor. “Batface,” the flat’s bellicose cleaning lady, is no help rescuing the precious floorboard. The narrator is pleased to find that Oskar has a “human” side when he uncovers his hidden porn stash, but the maintenance of the wooden floors soon takes a horrid turn. A strikingly original debut. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Oct. 9)
From the Publisher
“This novel has everything I look for: Line by line the sentences are a pleasure, page by page the story enthralls, and as a whole, the novel is expertly constructed, each precisely cut plank snapping perfectly into place. Clever, funny, creepy, atmospheric, and very entertaining. I realize that's a lot of adjectives, but read the book and you’ll see.”— Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

“Funny, beguiling, and quietly profound . . . a wonderfully well-crafted debut.” Times Literary Supplement

"Guffaw-out-loud moments…married to the horrified recognition that provokes empathy. A very funny novel provoking schadenfreude and belly laughs." The Independent

“Highly idiosyncratic, well-written, with a vivid sense of place–and weirdly compelling.” –Michael Frayn, author of Skios and Headlong

“One of the funniest and cleverest books of the year….Care of Wooden Floors reads like a farce directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and the novel’s denouement will surprise even the most jaded readers.” Washington Independent Review of Books

Fawlty Towers crossed with Freud.” Daily Telegraph

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

“This is a terrific first novel, written with a very engaging deadpan wit, and an understated sense of the absurd.” The Times

Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize

Selected as “Best Fiction Debut of 2012,” ShortList

“This darkly humorous novel from U.K. journalist Wiles involves a nameless protagonist whose eight days of house-sitting turn out to be a lot more hassle than he bargained for. A freelance copywriter in London does his old university friend, Oskar, now a classical musician, a big favor by staying in his ‘nice flat’ located in an unspecified and dour Slavic city. Oskar is a ‘borderline obsessive-compulsive’ who leaves very specific instructions on a number of notes posted throughout the flat, including not only the care of cats Shossy and Stravvy, but, of greater importance, that of the expensive French oak floors. Oskar, in L.A. to deal with divorcing his wife, intends to return soon to his ‘island of perfection.’ Unfortunately, the befuddled protagonist is a hapless caretaker; he lets one of Oskar’s cats die (via piano lid) and, perhaps worse, he spills red wine on the floor. ‘Batface,’ the flat’s bellicose cleaning lady, is no help rescuing the precious floorboard. The narrator is pleased to find that Oskar has a ‘human’ side when he uncovers his hidden porn stash, but the maintenance of the wooden floors soon takes a horrid turn. A strikingly original debut.” Publishers Weekly (starred review; a “Best New Book of the Week” )

Care of Wooden Floors is a charming and engrossing story…This is Will Wiles’ first novel, but it's executed with [the] skill and craftsmanship of a veteran novelist. The prose is clean and elegant, the story tightly focused, the humor and the realism in careful balance.”
The Toronto Star

 Shortlisted in the Specsavers National Book Award for “New Writer of the Year”

“If you are a fan of Kafka, you should enjoy this novel, which is reminiscent of The Metamorphosis.”Kirkus Reviews

Care of Wooden Floors turns the placid act of house-sitting into one man’s existential nightmare.” New York Times

“A tight, lovely, unique work full of heart as well as darkness…Wiles is a strong new voice. Enjoy this one with a glass of wine—if you dare.” —Bookpage

Library Journal
This dark comedic debut about the perils of house sitting, wine consumption, and wooden floors is the story of an unnamed college friend of Oskar who is tasked with watching his cats and caring for his impeccable apartment in an Eastern European city while Oskar is away in California tending to his divorce. Wine spilled on Oskar's beloved wooden floors leads to a comical, if fatal, chain of events punctuated by notes from Oskar regarding the care of his home. The author is the editor of Icon, an architecture and design magazine, and it shows not only in his precise descriptions of Oskar's space, but in his beautiful turns of phrase throughout the work such as "I was surrounded by white, a bubble in an ocean of milk." VERDICT Wiles excels at setting each scene, and fans of absurd humor will enjoy the ride until an all too abrupt and somewhat unsatisfying conclusion. Despite the disappointing ending, fans of bleak humor from the likes of Sam Lipsyte and Kingsley Amis should keep an eye on this writer. A promising debut for fans who like their novels darkly comic.—Julie Elliott, Indiana Univ. Lib., South Bend
Kirkus Reviews
British author Wiles' first foray into literary fiction. The narrator is a British writer of informational pamphlets who flies to an Eastern European city to care for the apartment and pet cats of an old college friend, Oskar, while Oskar flies to LA to settle his divorce. Oskar is a talented composer with an obsessive compulsive personality who leaves little notes all over the apartment for his friend. Some are merely helpful instructions, like where to find cleaning materials, and some are perceived as intrusive attempts at control. The title is a reference to a book Oskar leaves along with instructions to immediately clean up any spills on his precious wooden floor. Naturally, the first thing that happens is the narrator spills wine on the floor and is unable to completely eradicate the evidence. Among his various flat-sitting duties are the feeding of and cleaning-up after two cats. A note telling the narrator not to "play around with the piano" takes on more significance when he does play around with the piano and leaves the lid up while he goes out to attend a concert, gets drunk with a friend of Oskar's, and then returns and finds one of the cats crushed under the fallen piano lid. This tragedy is part of a series of chaotic circumstances that drive the narrator into his own subconscious world of anxieties and self-doubt. The novel thereafter becomes increasingly frightening and suspenseful, and the ending is one a reader could not possibly have imagined. If you are a fan of Kafka, you should enjoy this novel, which is reminiscent of The Metamorphosis.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781469207445
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 10/9/2012
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Will Wiles is an architecture and design journalist, whose work has appeared in Icon, Cabinet, New Statesman, and other publications. He lives in London.
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Read an Excerpt

DAY ONE

People are afraid of flying. I’ve never understood that. It’s a most remarkable experience; yes, even in a cramped seat in a noisy compartment on a three-hour budget flight with no food. You are still in the air. You are Above. It is extraordinary in the most direct and apt way; you are outside the ordinary. The ordinary is pushed down, rendered for a score of minutes into a mosaic of green and brown and mercury, and then you’re with the clouds.
   There has never been a better time to be alive, and that is not simply thanks to penicillin, flush toilets and central heating, it’s because now we can look down on the clouds. Clouds are utterly faithful to their promise of ethereal beauty. When I was very young, I imagined clouds to be warm and soft to the touch, because I knew they were water, and so therefore they must be steam because that’s what they looked like, and steam was warm. Perfect logic. Of course, they are not warm, but in the air-conditioned cylinder of your midweek commercial flight, they fulfil their old promise because they are awash with sunlight – no matter the daytime weather beneath, the cloud tops must be exposed to the sun, that is their guarantee, that is their tiny miracle.
   Renaissance artists must have felt this love of clouds, and appreciation of their natural splendour, and having always felt separated from their true glory were moved to populate them with putti and seraphim; so perfect was their approximation of the wonderfulness of being above cloud level that to be there now is to expect these heavenly denizens to be there with you. But they are not. You are alone above a landscape that is forever changing, forever unique, forever special for you; rolling cirrus meadows and boiling mountaintops across unfathomed distance. You are an explorer and this is your new-found land.
   But with all this beauty and isolation there is also an obligation – you must return, you must descend, back to the imperfect.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2014

    Forget the relaxing vacation. One little accident starts a chai

    Forget the relaxing vacation. One little accident starts a chain of dark and funny consequences. This book is a favorite.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2014

    Why not on Nook?  Amazon has it on Kindle so where's the Nook Bo

    Why not on Nook?  Amazon has it on Kindle so where's the Nook Book?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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