Skios

Michael Frayn

Skios

On the sunlit Greek island of Skios, the Fred Toppler Foundation's annual lecture is to be given by Dr Norman Wilfred, the world-famous authority on the scientific organisation of science. He turns out to be surprisingly young and charming — not at all the intimidating figure they had been expecting. The Foundation's guests are soon eating out of his hand. So, even sooner, is Nikki, the attractive and efficient organiser. Meanwhile, in a remote villa at the other end of the island, Nikki's old school-friend Georgie waits for the notorious chancer she has rashly agreed to go on holiday with, and who has only too characteristically failed to turn up. Trapped in the villa with her, by an unfortunate chain of misadventure, is a balding old gent called Dr Norman Wilfred, who has lost his whereabouts, his luggage, his temper and increasingly all normal sense of reality — everything he possesses apart from the flyblown text of a well-travelled lecture on the scientific organisation of science... 3.5 out of 5 based on 12 reviews
Skios

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardback
Pages 288
RRP
Date of Publication May 2012
ISBN 978-0571281411
Publisher Faber & Faber
 

On the sunlit Greek island of Skios, the Fred Toppler Foundation's annual lecture is to be given by Dr Norman Wilfred, the world-famous authority on the scientific organisation of science. He turns out to be surprisingly young and charming — not at all the intimidating figure they had been expecting. The Foundation's guests are soon eating out of his hand. So, even sooner, is Nikki, the attractive and efficient organiser. Meanwhile, in a remote villa at the other end of the island, Nikki's old school-friend Georgie waits for the notorious chancer she has rashly agreed to go on holiday with, and who has only too characteristically failed to turn up. Trapped in the villa with her, by an unfortunate chain of misadventure, is a balding old gent called Dr Norman Wilfred, who has lost his whereabouts, his luggage, his temper and increasingly all normal sense of reality — everything he possesses apart from the flyblown text of a well-travelled lecture on the scientific organisation of science...

My Father's Fortune by Michael Frayn

Reviews

The Sunday Times

Peter Kemp

This book risks being unreadable. Its pages are so brilliantly funny that tears of laughter make the print swim in front of your eyes.

06/05/2012

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The Financial Times

Henry Hitchings

Although the relationships between these characters are finely engineered, Skios has a few small flaws. At the start we stay at the airport for too long, and the conclusion contains too many twists. Yet this is a transfixingly witty novel about riding one’s luck and being undone by it. It screams “holiday reading” but it’s covertly serious, packaging metaphysics in a style that’s cinematic and inventive.

19/05/2012

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The Spectator

Cressida Connolly

Hilarious … In the hands of someone less accomplished, the events in Skios would be too improbable, its characterisation too thin, its reliance on that old trope, mistaken identity, just too plain daft. As it is, you can sit back and let the book lap over you like the warm waters surrounding the imaginary Greek isle of the title. This is perfect holiday reading, funny and light.

14/04/2012

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The Literary Review

Sam Leith

Skios is pure farce: a comic novel of the old school. If Frayn struggled to assemble it, that struggle doesn’t show: it’s as crisp, sweet and insubstantial — and as apparently offhand — as a perfect tuile knocked out by a Michelin-starred pastry chef ... The writing is quietly but unobtrusively stylish. The satire is well turned too: on super-rich, pompous and essentially philistine cultural boondoggles; on self-satisfied public intellectuals; and, maybe best of all, on writers in residence.

01/05/2012

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The Daily Telegraph

Anthony Cummins

… it isn’t a novel for pedants. Frayn stretches the comedy of errors to breaking point when Oliver takes out his passport and Nikki sees nothing amiss. Smartphones are mentioned but little used — why doesn’t anyone just Google Dr Wilfred? Characterisation takes a big hit for comedy’s sake: the plot relies heavily on Oliver’s airhead squeeze, not to mention the more widespread emotional neediness that blinds every major player from spotting what’s right under their nose. But that’s the point: we believe what we want to believe. So, in that spirit, I refuse to accept that Frayn has produced something below par here. That he’s incapable of writing a line that isn’t beautifully cadenced certainly does no harm to his case.

03/05/2012

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The Financial Times

Michael Prodger

It is all riotously silly; the characters are broadly caricatures, the locals are comic foreigners straight from central casting (including sibling taxi drivers Spiros and Stavros, one with a black wart on his nose, the other with one on his forehead), and the coincidences go beyond the limits of implausibility. Frayn, however, marshals every strand and player with seamless adroitness and winds the “great gear-chain of cause and effect” mercilessly. The result is a wonderfully diverting entertainment, something Wodehouse might have written if Blandings Castle had been perched on the edge of the Aegean.

03/05/2012

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The Guardian

Alex Preston

There are echoes of Justin Cartwright's excellent Other People's Money in the lampooning of the wealthy here, although I was disappointed that Frayn didn't train his intelligence more directly upon the financial misdemeanours of the eastern Mediterranean. There is a brief suggestion that the foundation is nothing more than a money-laundering vehicle for a shady Greek politician, but a novel set in modern-day Greece demands more than this. Skios will find its way into many backpacks this summer, and deservedly so. It's a pacy, engaging read ...

28/04/2013

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The Observer

Alex Preston

There are echoes of Justin Cartwright's excellent Other People's Money in the lampooning of the wealthy here, although I was disappointed that Frayn didn't train his intelligence more directly upon the financial misdemeanours of the eastern Mediterranean. There is a brief suggestion that the foundation is nothing more than a money-laundering vehicle for a shady Greek politician, but a novel set in modern-day Greece demands more than this. Skios will find its way into many backpacks this summer, and deservedly so. It's a pacy, engaging read ...

28/04/2013

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The Guardian

Theo Tait

Frayn has described it as "an experiment to see you if you can write a farce as a novel without the communal response that helps farce to work in the theatre". It is not, it has to be said, an entirely successful experiment. It lands Frayn with characters who are genre-bound and tinny ... Though this is clearly not one of Frayn's best, it doesn't demand much, and it has a lot of incidental charm.

28/04/2012

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Times Literary Supplement

Edmund Gordon

rayn engineers his plot with all the liveliness and ingenuity you’d expect. It is satisfying enough when viewed purely as a mechanism, and even if it does depend on the characters suffering implausible failures of intelligence, and its resolution on their making equally implausible leaps of understanding, strict plausibility is rather less important to farce than it is to other literary modes. But in terms of hilarity, Skios is closer to Nothing On than Noises Off. This is largely because Frayn fails to inject it with the requisite dose of panic. The characters occasionally lose control, but the reader is never invited to keep step with their agitation. Narrative tension is constantly and comprehensively undermined by Frayn’s habit of breaking into the action to spell out his themes ...

06/07/2012

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The New Statesman

Leo Robson

It is hardly surprising that farce, so dependent on visual humour and simultaneous action, developed as a genre of the theatre and remains one. The stage directions of Noises Off would hardly be expected to leave you crying with laughter, and Skios is a book of stage directions. Stage directions with a thesis tacked on ... the reader, tossed between traditions, choking on comic conceits, and still waiting for all those pennies to drop, assumes the role of a pantomime-goer stripped of all comforts: alone in the auditorium, and with nothing to yell at but the book.

09/05/2012

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The Independent

Christian House

Skios attempts to reach the high comedy that Kingsley Amis managed with Lucky Jim. However, reading this slim novel is a little like watching the kind of Christmas TV special that we find hilarious on Boxing Day when our critical faculties are worn down by cold turkey and advocaat ... Nevertheless, Skios should sell a bundle at the check-out counters at Luton and Stansted this summer to readers heading out to the tavernas and pool loungers.

27/05/2012

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