British author Wiles’ first foray into literary fiction.
The narrator is a British writer of informational pamphlets who flies to an Eastern European city to care for the apartment and pet cats of an old college friend, Oskar, while Oskar flies to LA to settle his divorce. Oskar is a talented composer with an obsessive compulsive personality who leaves little notes all over the apartment for his friend. Some are merely helpful instructions, like where to find cleaning materials, and some are perceived as intrusive attempts at control. The title is a reference to a book Oskar leaves along with instructions to immediately clean up any spills on his precious wooden floor. Naturally, the first thing that happens is the narrator spills wine on the floor and is unable to completely eradicate the evidence. Among his various flat-sitting duties are the feeding of and cleaning-up after two cats. A note telling the narrator not to “play around with the piano” takes on more significance when he does play around with the piano and leaves the lid up while he goes out to attend a concert, gets drunk with a friend of Oskar’s, and then returns and finds one of the cats crushed under the fallen piano lid. This tragedy is part of a series of chaotic circumstances that drive the narrator into his own subconscious world of anxieties and self-doubt. The novel thereafter becomes increasingly frightening and suspenseful, and the ending is one a reader could not possibly have imagined.
If you are a fan of Kafka, you should enjoy this novel, which is reminiscent of The Metamorphosis.