Care of Wooden Floors

Care of Wooden Floors
Genre : Fiction
Published : 30 Aug 2012 - HarperCollins
“But for the floors, and the sofa, and the porn, and the dead and missing, the flat was restored to order.”

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 the relationship 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.

Oskar is a Mittel-European 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. Having said all that, CARE OF WOODEN FLOORS isn't particularly about Oskar. Oskar is in Los Angeles, having his marriage to Laura dismantled by lawyers, and he has entrusted an old college 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...


Highly idiosyncratic, well-written, with a vivid sense of place – and weirdly compelling".

Michael Frayn

The funniest book I read in 2012

Mark Watson

Ye Gods -- 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

CARE OF WOODEN FLOORS has everything I look for in a novel: 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.


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

Kate Saunders, The Times

Will Wiles ... is a talented comedy writer, and intelligent enough to anticipate his readers' thoughts so that the disasters that unfold are not clumsy slapstick, nor lazily opportunistic gags, but accidents that occur despite the narrator's best efforts to be careful. Guffaw-out-loud moments are frequent, married to the horrified recognition that provokes empathy. Many will nod with bemused sympathy at the narrator's piteous regrets and entreaties ... this is a very funny novel combining schadenfreude and belly laughs. Just don't let Wiles flat-sit for you.

Leyla Sanai, Independent

If Wiles’ plot sounds like sitcom stuff – Fawlty Towers as read, perhaps, by the pratfall-loving Freud of The Psychopathology of Everyday Life – be assured that CARE OF WOODEN FLOORS offers other pleasures. They are not so much in the book’s wry thoughts on interiors…as in Wiles’ deft and precise descriptive asides…Wiles’ farcical plot (in its essence, a staple since at least the days of silent comedy) is sharpened by his aphoristic asides. This is a smart and polished debut.

Daily Telegraph

The novel’s strength lies in Wiles’s wry depiction of the battle between chaos and order.

Sunday Times

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.

Alfred Hickling, Guardian

Subtly asks us to accept life's imperfections ... but beneath the book's light touch lies an outline for an aesthetic philosophy ... CARE OF WOODEN FLOORS is funny, beguiling and quietly profound; it's a wonderfully well-crafted debut.

David Winters, Times Literary Supplement

One of those clever, wacky, refreshing and unexpectedly delightful first novels ... Brilliant.

The Bookseller

A well-written debut exploring Western society's obsession with obtaining the "right" objects, as though merely possessing them will lead to happiness. It certainly works on that level but is also successful as an absurdist tale of how one small mistake can result in pandemonium.

Shirley Whiteside, Sunday Herald

A smart, funny and compelling tale".

Selected as 'Best Fiction Debut of 2012', ShortList

The simple premise - a bloke on his own in a flat - stirs up an unlikely level of tension. And the ending is genuinely troubling, as the narrator soon forgets the shocking cost of his life-changing mini break.


Wiles has a strong visual sensibility. His descriptions are rich and vivid – the smashed windows of an abandoned building are like moves in a game of dereliction – and his characters are strongly affected by the aesthetics of their surroundings. A brilliant and wholly unexpected twist comes in the form of Oskar’s reaction to the destruction his friend has wrought in his flat. It’s dark and funny in equal measures, much like the rest of the novel, a debut as crisp, slick and polished as a well-cared-for wooden floor.

Alice Wyllie, Scotland on Sunday

This truly is a work of rare genius, and for a debut novel it deserves the highest acclaim. Brilliantly written, the narrative suspense is pitched at just the right level to make you wonder how far Wiles is going to go with it. And then he goes there. In places it is so farcical it is almost unbearable to watch the chaos unfurl, in case your pre-emptive imagination was right. It’s hilarious, it’s cringe-worthy, it plays havoc with everyday situations we’ve all encountered, and it’s utterly, utterly brilliant.

We Love This Book

While Wiles’ novel is a slapstick, catastrophic romp, it’s also a rumination on relationships and happiness ... It’s really assured, very witty, not too highbrow but gorgeously written.

Valerie O'Riordan, Bookmunch

Wiles is a highly descriptive writer, and the narrative is packed with subtle design references. Sentences are littered with similes, a writing style that could be distracting, did it not conjure up a life lived through aesthetics.

Oliver Basciano, Art Review

... darkly humorous. ... A strikingly original debut.

Publisher's Weekly

Will Wiles's terrifically fun comedy of errors... In its blend of mordant humour and grotesque symbolism, CARE OF WOODEN FLOORS reads like Kafka meets Larry David. ... What gives Wiles's debut its power is the nearly operatic scale of the unfolding disaster in Oskar's flat, along with its minutely observed metaphysical fallout.

Boston Globe of the most brilliant and entertaining literary debuts this year. The precision of his language and the care with which he delineates the characters and their environment is nothing less than astounding.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

If, like me, you've ever thought that your productivity and creativity would explode if only you could get organized, let this be a (morbidly funny) wakeup call. ... Like Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart" (which Wiles references) ... disturbingly funny, macabre mishaps remind us that the pursuit of perfection can drive you crazy. This is a precisely written debut from one who knows the value of letting loose.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

...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.

Rowan Moore, The Observer, Best Architecture Books of 2012

...funny and richly poetic, despite being about, well, the care of wooden floors. The floor is in an unnamed European city, and belongs to a minimalist composer (best know piece: 'Variations on Train Timetables') named Oskar. But Oskar is away, and has entrusted his lovely wooden floor to an old friend. One tiny mistake sets off a chain of escalating disasters: this is a surreal, farcical, original first novel.

The Times Review, Christmas Books 2012

A first novel to really get excited about...


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

Wiles is a talent to watch.

The Spectator

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