I did not like this book, even though it made me laugh. And I almost always like books that make me laugh, so this is something of a rarity.
I liked it at first, for its quirky descriptions and for the protagonist's tendency to get himself into ever-escalating scrapes, the sort that happen to me. You know, set the cup too close to the edge, it falls and splashes something sticky all over the clean floor, and then someone (for me, a child, for him, a cat) walks in it and tracks the stickiness everywhere. Mishaps, really. My life is flooded with them.
The protagonist, who remains nameless, flies to an unnamed Eastern European country to house-sit his friend Oskar's apartment and cats for a couple weeks. Oskar is a fastidious composer whose apartment contains magnificent wooden floors. He leaves little notes all over the apartment to help his friend care for the floors, the cats, the pristine piano, and so on.
Things do not go well. At all.
Now, I'm going to spoil the ending with my criticism here, so if you think you want to read this book and don't want to know how it ends, close this and come back when you're done.
You've been duly warned.
Okay, so why didn't I like this book? It's not because of the fair amount of cursing or the scene where the protagonist unwittingly winds up at a low-class strip joint. It's not because a cat and a person die. (I did warn you about the spoilage.) It's because at the very end, the protagonist is handed a get-out-of-jail-free card. He faces zero consequences for his actions, his mishaps, his cover-up of another person's death. He just gets to hop on a plane back to England, supposedly having learned to value his own messy life after trying to inhabit a spotless one.
That being said, the writing was superb, and I did stay riveted to every last squirm-inducing detail of the hapless protagonist's travails.
Particularly Good Bits:
Furniture is like that. Used and enjoyed as intended, it absorbs that experience and exudes it back into the atmosphere, but if simply bought for effect and left to languish in a corner, it vibrates with melancholy.
The mixing of bookshelves in a relationship is a gesture of vast, almost foolhardy, mutual trust, and Oskar wasn't able to live on the same continent as his wife, let alone jumble up the contents of his library with hers.
How was the concert? I have been asked this before by people, on the rare occasions that I have attended concerts, and I have never known what to say. Normally, I would just reply: 'Oh, very good.' By this I mean: 'There were no obvious mistakes. No notes were missed in such a clunkingly apparent fashion that I was able to detect the error. No one forgot how to play their instrument halfway through. No one ran amok in the audience. Nothing caught fire. Music played and I was so bored that my hair was bored.'
If This was a Movie it Would be Rated: R for language and sexual situations.