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Found 2 results

  1. Jack Bick is an interview journalist for an upmarket London magazine. He has a good track record, but the magazine seems to be drifting and Jack has the feeling that he's about to be let go. In what he expects to be his last week on the staff, he has two interviews to conduct: Oliver Pierce, a psychogeographical writer who hasn't had a follow-up to his bestselling work some years ago (Jack's idea); and an estate agent/property developer that his editor has told him to interview. Given the two options, Jack opts first for lager (the breakfast of champions) and then for Pierce. He and Pierce go off to explore Barking where a large plume of smoke is visible from all over London. What follows is a meandering story of alcoholism, the seedy side of London life with dead-end jobs, half-fulfilled ideas and half-built properties. Jack is a whinging and unlikeable man who cadges off other people's goodwill. He is capricious and willing to throw anyone under the bus if there's a drink in it for him. Plume is probably supposed to be both humorous and some kind of state of the nation piece. Unfortunately, the lack of plot or character development; the repetitiveness; the lack of any obvious motive behind any of the actions makes for quite a long and dull read. Some marks for ideas, the odd set piece and references to tube trains. Unfortunately, this just don't come together in a workable framework. The end, when it comes, goes off in a surreal direction that confuses more than it intrigues. This is a shame, because Care of Wooden Floors was a superb, focused, funny novel that was well paced and spoke to this reader about the human condition. Plume doesn't. ***00
  2. Our narrator has been invited by his fastidious friend Oskar to house-sit whilst Oskar sorts out his divorce. So, our unnamed hero turns up in an unnamed east European country with no particular plan, but a vague notion of writing. Oskar's apartment is immaculate, well stocked, there are two house trained cats; a cleaner who will visit twice a week; and a wooden floor. What could possibly go wrong? Obviously, this is a farce and we know from the outset that catastrophe awaits. Small mistakes are compounded by poor decisions leading to bigger mistakes. And, as the title makes clear, the floor is the centrepiece of the catastrophe. So, it's not a novel of suspense or plot per se, it is one where the joy is in discovering just how badly things can go wrong. The careful description of the various banana skins leaves the reader tense with anticipation. A further star is the absent Oskar, brought to life through his seemingly endless notes to the narrator that keep popping up when least expected. This shows an obsessive-compulsive who ought to be unable to live in any normal society, let alone one as scruffy as this decaying Slavonic city, yet who seems to float effortlessly above all the detritus. One wonders how Oskar could ever have befriended a klutz like our hero, but the explanation is plausible – well, plausible within the context of this slapstick comedy. One problem with farces is how to bring them to an end. In Care of Wooden Floors, the ending is improbable but less chaotic than one might have expected. It feels satisfying. Overall, this is a funny, well written novel told in a memorable and distinctive voice. There are genuine laugh out loud moments. However, it might have been nice to give our narrator a name and to identify Oskar's city, if only because it seems like more effort to have kept them vague than to have come clean. The only clunk in the language is where elaborate and awkward phrasing has been employed to avoid revealing these two names. The rest is pretty much flawless and perfectly paced. ****0
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