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MisterHobgoblin

Care of Wooden Floors

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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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With such a title, Care of Wooden Floors, I would never have given this a book a second glance without this review, so once again many thanks, Mr HG, for introducing this book so temptingly.  It was quick and easy  to read, because I could not bear to wait before finding out what would happen next. The review sums it up perfectly, but don't expect a  Whitehall farce, rather a wry comedy of escalating nightmare. It is so well written that you are constantly living in the mind of the narrator. All that happens can be pictured so clearly in your imagination;  you are drawn unrelentingly into facing and sharing his dilemmas and thoughts, although perhaps not always his solutions.  An unusual story with rather strange characters, and although you may cringe at times you will certainly laugh often as well.

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