Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles

Care of Wooden Floors is the debut novel of Will Wiles, by day an architecture and design journalist, by night a novelist (it would seem). It was selected last month as one of the Waterstones 11 - eleven novels chosen as the best debut novels of 2012 (some more of which are to be reviewed here, such as Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child, February 2012, and Jenni Fagan's The Panopticon, May 2012). 

So. Reading Wiles' debut novel was not the easiest or most relaxing thing in the world. It is, at times, cringe-worthy - not due to the writing but due to the actions of it's protagonist. It's a little like watching Peep Show or The Worst Week of My Life - sometimes you just want to look away and grimace. It is essentially a series of increasingly unfortunate events - including negligent homicide and manslaughter, but treated in a surreal manner which feels rather... dream-like. In fact, the entire book, a series of events, predicted by a man the reader never really meets, is essentially like a dream. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong, and at the end of it all there were no consequences and the protagonist heads home feeling rather bemused and slightly philosophical.

The writing itself is heavy-handed. Layer upon layer of metaphor and simile. It's focus on building structures and architecture is obviously part of its author's passion, but I did not feel that it suited the character all that well - considering he is a freelance writer for the local council. However, once overlooked, the claustrophobic atmosphere that the language and descriptions bring actually make sense: this is a man trapped in a country he does not know, no one speaks his language, and the only place he has to call home is a flat belonging to a man with severe OCD. He is also a repressed writer. After a while, the language makes perfect sense.

I cannot in all honesty say I would ever read the book again - which is a tad unusual for me. The 'series-of-unfortunate-events'-style has never appealed to me, it makes me feel too uncomfortable, too frustrated with the character. Maybe I'm too much like his friend?

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