Novels don’t always have to be about big important subjects like war or star-crossed romances. In the case of Care of Wooden Floors, the subject is very small and personal: taking care of a friend’s apartment when he is away. That’s it … nothing more. Our narrator (a barely making it British copywriter) arrives at an unnamed Eastern European city to take care of his composer friend Oskar’s flat. The only instructions: Feed the cats, don’t touch the piano and make sure nothing damages the wooden floors.
From this simple premise, debut novelist Will Wiles builds a steadily escalating tale of calamity and mishap wrapped in a delicious layer of black humor. Like all good slapstick, Care of Wooden Floors starts small and slowly builds—lurching from one small problem to another until everything snowballs out of control. Yet aside from the rather hasty and unsatisfying ending, the story never feels outlandish or unbelievable. Each event seems inevitable (almost preordained), and while you feel the narrator’s panic and pain as things escalate, you’re can’t help but laugh. (However, as Jackie rightly cautions, if you are a cat lover, you might not appreciate some of the narrator’s more blackly comic misadventures.)
From the prophetic and oddly specific notes left by Oskar to the steady disintegration of our narrator’s peace of mind (as well as the apartment), this book was a delight from start to finish. I immensely enjoyed it and will definitely seek out future books by this author. If you’re looking for an offbeat book that is best described as “literary slapstick,” this would be the perfect choice.