Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles

Care of Wooden Floors

Five words from the blurb: flat, perfection, alone, care, farcical

Oskar lives with two cats in an immaculate flat in Eastern Europe. When forced to go to America to sort out his divorce he leaves his flat in the care of an old university friend. Unfortunately his friend doesn’t have the same high standards of cleanliness and is stressed by trying to maintain the beautifully polished surfaces. He does his best, but small marks become giant stains when he tries to clean them. Everything goes from bad to worse and the story becomes farcical, with increasingly ridiculous situations occurring.

This book is very entertaining and you can look at this now if you are even remotely interested in cleaning and polishing floors! I think everyone can relate to the responsibility of looking after something that doesn’t belong to them and the guilt that results from damaging it.

The comedy in this book is quite dark and often revolves around pain. The violence isn’t graphic, it is more slapstick in nature, but I sometimes felt guilty for laughing at the situations. It wouldn’t have been funny if it happened to me, but there was something about the imagery used that really tickled me.

Once my elbow and shoulder began to ache, I stopped scrubbing at the floor. I rinsed the sponge, squeezed it thoroughly, and wiped away the suds. Was the blemish still there? The floor was wet – it was hard to tell. Besides, I was beginning to feel that this blemish was like a flash-shadow left after a photograph has been taken, a blob imprinted on the back of my eyes and nowhere else. I thought of Edgar Allan Poe’s story ‘The Tell-tale Heart’, in which a murderer is driven mad by the imagined audible beating of the heart of his victim, concealed under the floorboards of his room. But I was no murderer, I thought, and it would take a lot more than a tiny mark on the floor to drive me insane.

I should probably warn cat lovers that they may find some scenes in this book distressing, but equally bad things happen to the humans so cats are not singled out for victimisation.

The writing isn’t perfect and there were a few too many similes and metaphors for my liking, but the comedy outweighed any minor problems with the text and I frequently found myself laughing out loud.

This book doesn’t have much depth, but it does raise some interesting issues about perfection. It is an entertaining way to spend a few hours, and I’ll be recommending it to a wide range of different people.



2012 Thriller

The Child Who by Simon Lelic

The Child Who

Five words from the blurb: murdered, schoolmate, solicitor, defend, dilemna

Simon Lelic’s debut novel, Rupture, is one of my favourite books from the last decade. I wasn’t as impressed with his second, The Facility, but I was still keen to see what his new book would be like. The Child Who falls some where between the two. It is a fast paced, gripping read, but it lacks the depth and originality of Rupture.

The book centres on a solicitor who is called to defend a twelve-year-old boy accused of murdering a girl from his school. His job is made more difficult by the high public profile of the case and the way his family are increasingly affected.

The Child Who has far more commercial appeal than his previous books. It reads like a British version of Jodi Picoult, complete with the moral dilemma and the court room drama.

It was so compelling and easy to read that I read it in a couple of short sittings, but on ending the book I felt a little disappointed. The topic had potential to be thought-provoking, but I came away without feeling my viewpoint had been challenged. Each decision made by the characters seemed easy and the ending felt out of proportion and unrealistic. I wish it had contained a subtler character study instead of just being endless dialogue and action.

‘Well,’ Leo said. ‘There’s no denying it was a terrible crime. But the boy – Daniel – he hasn’t been charged, not officially. He’s barely spoken. And anyway it’s hardly our place – ‘
‘Did he do it, Leo?’ This from Stacie.
‘Surely they wouldn’t have made the fuss they did if they weren’t sure he did it?’
‘Now, Stacie, you know I can’t…’ But already her eyes were leaching disappointment and Leo was loath to let down the crowd twice.
‘Yes,’ He said. ‘I would say he did it. There’s not a doubt, if I’m honest, in my mind.’

I think I’m only disappointed because Simon Lelic has previously set the bar very high. This is an entertaining read and I recommend it to fans of lighter thrillers.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

The Child Who is a powerful and heart-wrenching thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and drag you, emotionally, into the thick of the plot. This is, without doubt, Lelic’s finest work to date. Reader Dad

I found it hard to become involved in the novel: none of the characters engaged my sympathy, and although the author attempts to create psychological understanding for the crime, I felt this was somewhat superficially treated… Petrona

…Almost a 5 star read for me. I did enjoy it, although the subject matter is dark, but in the end its middle ground between literary fiction & crime fiction made it not quite enough of one or the other for me. Novel Heights




2012 Chunkster

The Art of Fielding – Chad Harbach

The Art of Fielding

Five words from the blurb: college, baseball, friends, love, American

I hate watching sport, know nothing about baseball and haven’t enjoyed a sports themed book before (not that I’ve read many – I tend to avoid them), but increasing enthusiasm for The Art of Fielding persuaded me to give it a try. I’m pleased that I did as this is a modern classic that will be talked about for years to come.

The first few chapters did their best to put me off – I could see the writing quality, but the endless baseball references did nothing for me.

Henry played shortstop, only and ever shortstop – the most demanding spot on the diamond. More ground balls were hit to the shortstop than anyone else, and then he had to make the longest throw to first. He also had to turn double-plays, cover second on steals, keep runners on second from taking long leads, make relay throws from the outfield. Every Little League coach Henry had ever had took one look at him and pointed toward right field or second base. Or else coach didn’t point anywhere, just shrugged at the fate that had assigned him this pitiable shrimp, this born benchwarmer.

Without the hype I would probably have abandoned this book after the first few pages, but I persevered and at page 50 I was rewarded with chapter 6 which didn’t mention baseball at all. Instead it introduced Moby Dick, an English professor and a glimpse of the magical writing Chad Harbach is capable of when he talks about something other than sport.

As the book progressed I became increasingly attached to the characters in the book and completed its 500 pages in a surprisingly quick time, but on reaching the end I found I was quietly impressed rather than bowled over with excitement. I didn’t find anything particularly new or interesting in The Art of Fielding. It is simply a well written book about American college life – and I have read a lot of those, although I admit this is one of the best.

I think those who have been through an American college will have a far greater appreciation of this book than I did. I found it very similar to The Marriage Plot in terms of both style and subject matter – with The Art of Fielding being the better book in terms of consistency and message.

I’m also sure that I missed some of the relevant baseball references and their significance on the bigger picture. I’m afraid that those who claim this book will give the reader a passion for baseball are wrong, but I agree that it isn’t necessary to enjoy the sport to appreciate this book.

Despite my criticisms I do think this is a very good book. It is a simple story, but one that is very well told. It is hard not to feel compassion for the well developed characters. I just hope that next time Chad Harbach will devote his time to writing a book that doesn’t contain any sporting references.

Recommended, especially to American graduates.



2012 Other

The Best Books of 2012? Part 2: Authors We Know and Love

Last week I posted: The Best Books of 2012? Part 1: Debut Authors

This time it is the turn of the authors that we are already familiar with. Here are the 2012 books I am looking forward to reading:

Note: UK release month shown in brackets, date may be different in other countries.

Intrusion (Note: UK cover not available yet – this is the French translation which is available now for all those lucky enough to speak French)

In by Natsuo Kirino (August, Harvill Secker)

Out by Natsuo Kirino is my favourite thriller so I’m very excited that her new book is going to be published here later this year. In contains an investigation into a best-selling author and promises to question the differences between life and literature. I hope it lives up to my exceedingly high expectations.


Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel (May, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Alison Bechdel’s darkly comic memoir, Fun Home, introduced me to the graphic novel. She returns with a graphic novel about her mother. I’m sure this will be one of the most talked about books next year.

The Greatcoat

The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore (February, Hammer)

The Siege by Helen Dunmore is one of the best pieces of historical fiction I’ve ever read. The Greatcoat is described as a chilling and atmospheric ghost story set in 1950s Yorkshire and my only hope is that her amazing writing skills don’t scare me too much!

.The Chemistry of Tears

The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey (April, Faber and Faber)

An automaton brings two strangers together. Using clockwork objects as the basis for a story worked for Hugo Cabret – I think this sounds wonderfully original and I look forward to trying it.


Arcadia by Lauren Groff (April, William Heinemann)

The author of The Monsters of Templeton returns with a new book about a group of people who set up a commune in the grounds of a decaying mansion. The premise doesn’t sound that exciting, but Groff has the ability to turn very ordinary situations into engaging reads so I think this is one to look out for.

All is Song

All Is Song by Samantha Harvey (January, Jonathan Cape)

The Wilderness was one of my favourite books in 2010 so I’m looking forward to reading her second novel. A few people suggested that this one about brotherhood is even better than her first. I’m not sure that is possible, but I look forward to finding out.

The Child Who

The Child Who by Simon Lelic (January, Mantle)

Rupture is one of the best novels published in recent years. I love the way Simon Lelic forces the reader to look at difficult situations in a different light and this book about a solicitor defending a child murderer promises to be just as compelling. I’m lucky enough to have an ARC of this book and look forward to reading it over Christmas.


Phantom by Jo Nesbo (March, Vintage)

Jo Nesbo returns with the 7th book in the Harry Hole series.

Bring up the Bodies

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (May, 4th Estate)

I wasn’t a big fan of Wolf Hall, but if you were you’ll be excited to learn that the sequel is out next year.

Other books to look out for:

The Red House by Mark Haddon (May, Jonathan Cape)

Lionel Asbo by Martin Amis (July, Jonathan Cape)

Capital by John Lancaster (March, Faber and Faber)

Mo Said She Was Quirky by James Kelman (July, Hamish Hamilton)

In One Person by John Irving (May, Doubleday)

The Girl Who Fell From The Sky by Simon Mawer (May, Little, Brown)

If you’re in the US then you’ll be happy to know that Harper recently announced that it will be publishing new books from Michael Chabon and Barbara Kingsolver in the Fall. Unfortunately those of us in the rest of the world will have to wait a little bit longer for them.

Which 2012 books are you looking forward to?


2012 Other

The Best Books of 2012? Part 1: Debut Authors

I’ve been flicking through publisher catalogues and asking booksellers and publicists about the most exciting books to be published in the UK in 2012. The following are those that grabbed my attention or were mentioned on multiple occasions.

Note: UK release month shown in brackets, date may be different in other countries.

The Art of Fielding

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (January, 4th Estate)

This book has been a massive success in America, but isn’t published in the UK until January. I’m not convinced that a novel about baseball will work in this country, but a lot of people are getting excited about it so I’ll give it a try.

A Novel Bookstore

A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse (January, Europa Editions)

A small bookshop in Paris uses a top-secret committee to select its books. The shop is very popular, but then the committee members begin to recieve death threats. This book promises to be a real treat for literary fans.

The Snow Child

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (February, Headline)

I’m lucky enough to have received an advanced reading copy of this and can assure you that this book about a mysterious child in the Alaskan wilderness is truly magical. I’m sure it will be one of the most talked about books in 2012, melting the hearts of everyone who reads it.

Q: A Love Story

Q by Evan Mandery (February, 4th Estate)

A writer has fallen in love and is planning a beautiful wedding when a man claiming to be a time-travelling version of his future self warns him to abandon the wedding. This book is being marketed to fans of The Time Traveller’s Wife. I hope it lives up to these high expectations.

The Lifeboat

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (March, Virago)

An ocean-liner sinks leaving an eclectic mixture of passengers battling for a position in the lifeboat. The successful ones may have survived the initial hurdle but they face a grueling three weeks fighting for survival; testing the limits of their morality as well as their physical endurance.

The Land of Decoration

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen (March, Chatto & Windus)

The story of a little girl who, having been bullied at school, decides to build her own world filled with people made from pipe cleaners. One day she uses shaving foam and cotton wool to fill her model world with snow and is amazed by the effect this has on the real world. I can’t wait to read it!


Wonder by R J Palacio (March, Bodley Head)

A ten-year-old boy with a facial disfigurement is going to school for the first time. This book was initially written for children, but this tender story of inner beauty has won the hearts of an adult audience and I look forward to sampling it.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (March, Doubleday)

One day Harold Fry nips out of his house to post a letter, but for some reason he ends up walking from one end of the country to the other. This book is described as tender and comic and I’ve heard it is even better than it sounds.

The Playdate

The Playdate by Louise Miller (April, Pan)

A chilling story about what can go wrong when you leave your child in the care of someone you don’t know very well. Sophie Hannah describes it as “a must-read that will tap into every mother’s primal fears”.

Other books to look out for:

Snake Ropes by Jess Richards (March, Sceptre)

Set on a strange island where children are locked up and then start disappearing, this book is said to be reminiscent of Angela Carter. Sceptre paid a six figure sum for two novels from this debut author so her writing must stand out from the crowd.

A Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman (April, Doubleday)

An Australian lighthouse keeper finds a dinghy containing a baby lying next to the body of a dead man. This book is supposed to be packed with raw emotion and moral dilemmas – exactly as I like them!

The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber (May, Hodder Stoughton)

This novel is written in verse and questions the identity of Shakespeare. I haven’t tried a novel written in verse yet – it could go either way, but I’m up for the experiment!

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (June, Pan)

A beautiful story of a secret friendship between a young girl and her uncle’s bereaved partner. Dealing with the difficult subject of AIDS this book is bound to be an emotional roller-coaster.


Do you like the sound of these books?

Are you excited about any debut novels that will be published in 2012?


Come back next week to see Part 2:

The Best Books of 2012: Authors We Know and Love