Oskar has left his apartment in the hands of an old university friend. It is a beautiful apartment, carefully decorated with everything in its place. The wooden floors are the pièce de résistance and require careful treatment. Oskar is very precise about this. Should anything happen to the floor, his friend should call, straight away.
It was a slender brown hardback. On the front cover was a line drawing of a man easing a floorboard into place with an expression of Zen passivity. Already the book was putting me at ease. It looked like an artefact from the fatherly world of Haynes car manuals and Protect and Survive leaflets. It would know what to do.
The saying “you have to laugh or you’ll cry” is the definition of Care of Wooden Floors. Read with a straight face, it’s all rather tragic, but just as you start to worry about their friendship or the cats, a bubble of laughter will emerge. Will Wiles should be commended on his ability to write in such a way that the humour wins every time. The narrator’s thought patterns and observations make the book, rather than the story itself. Oskar has left notes all around the apartment in strategic places, which seem like he’s being a bit anally retentive but slowly, their instructions start to make perfect sense. As the situation spirals out of control, you battle with the desire to shout at the narrator to stop, to be honest, to grow up, yet all the time, giggling at the absurdity of it all.
I’m pretty sure we’ve all experienced the central situation to some degree. When you’ve spilt or stained something and you think you’re making it better but you only make it 10 times worse. Yes, it’s taken to extremes here but it’s an interesting premise for a book; especially when it seems so absurd to have a floor that can’t withstand life. The narrator means well, which makes you root for him.
This was crazy, I thought, spinning these ideas over and over. Perhaps I was crazy, grip loosened by solitude and the small, furry spectre of death. But that in itself was not a wholly sane thought – whoever went mad after less than a week alone?
There’s a part of me that responded to the actual act of being in an apartment by yourself. I live by myself and do worry sometimes that I’m picking up odd habits. There’s also that sense of being in a strange place by yourself which makes you suddenly feel you should be doing something, anything. Whilst at home, you are perfectly capable of spending time doing nothing.
I felt it started getting a bit too silly at the end. All that over a floor? But overall it was well written and entertaining, although not the new favourite everyone has led me to believe.
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Also reviewed @ Musings of a Bookshop Girl