Sunday, December 16, 2012

Reading Journal: Care of Wooden Floors, by Will Wiles (2012)

As the old saw goes: easy reading is damn hard writing. Wiles, an architecture and design journalist by trade, is a very technically gifted writer, and his sentences are always propelling you forward through this almost-too-simple story: a writer accepts a house-sitting assignment in an unnamed Eastern European country during which he hopes to embark on a new novel - autobiographical wink? - but it quickly devolves into calamity. The hero is charged with the care of the apartment, its two cats, and as the title suggests, its exquisite wooden floors. On one hand, I wanted more of the environment: a failed attempt to learn the language or a wrong turn into an unfamiliar neighbourhood, to show us just how out of the water our fish is; but on the other hand, Wiles does a great deal with very little, staying in the apartment almost the whole time and showing us how everything comes unravelled. Now factor in the flashbacks that explain the narrator's relationship to the apartment owner, and the purpose of the latter's vacation, and you very quickly find yourself determined to find out what happens in the end: will he come home angry? Surprisingly indifferent? Or maybe he won't come home at all...? Of course, I can't tell you how it ends, but don't worry, it's a quick read and you'll get there soon enough. In comparison to a lot of debut novels - which are by nature rather sparse - Care of Wooden Floors is an achievement in simplicity.

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