Review: Care of Wooden Floors

When I was about 17, I did a lot of babysitting. I was called up one day and asked to babysit for a couple who I’d never met before – they’d got my name from someone else, it was a last minute thing. So I went round – they had a very small but well-kept flat, and were very nice and welcoming. Amongst the many instructions they gave before they left was “when it gets dark, just pull the blind down”. And off they went.

It got dark. I pulled the blind down. And by that I mean the whole thing came off the wall.

After several minutes of whispered swearing and complete panic, I somehow managed to put it back up. It was very delicately balanced on the fixing, and would no longer roll up or down. Fortunately it was down, so looked as though I had done as instructed. But I spent the rest of the night (and it was a very long night) looking at it guiltily and expecting it to fall down at any minute. Should I just take the blind down and avoid the risk of it falling down the minute they walked in the door? Should I just tell them what had happened? If I did would they deduct it from my fee?

I left the blind. It didn’t fall down, and I never told them. The next time I went round, they had curtains instead. I still feel quite guilty about it.

The point of all this, is that Care of Wooden Floors took me right back to this moment. That awful feeling of OMG I have wrecked someone else’s property and what the hell do I do?!

The book is about an unnamed man who has been called in to look after the flat and the cats of his pedantic, obsessive and perfectionist friend Oskar. The flat has extremely expensive wooden floors, and, of course, things do not go well.

It is a very claustrophic book. You are right in there with the action – and since most of it takes place in one flat, you do get a sense of being trapped in the situation. It is also written in first person, which I think brings you even closer to the action. I read a lot of it with the book at arm’s length, wincing and on the verge of yelling “Just stop!!!! Come clean!!!” at various intervals. I didn’t though cos I was on a train. But hats off to Wiles for really drawing me into the story.

A couple of negatives. First, the book is peppered with clever little metaphors, similies, etc. Whilst I like clever descriptions as much as the next reader, it did feel a tiny bit overdone at times; as if Wiles was trying to fit in every single one he had ever thought of into one book.

Second, I didn’t like the bit at the end with the cleaner. I think I get why it’s in there, but it’s hard to explain without spoilers. It just felt a bit unnecessary to me.

But those things aside, it was a good read. Even if it did take me back to my night of ‘blind panic’. Have you ever accidentally wrecked someone’s stuff? Did you come clean?


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