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Skios [Paperback]

Michael Frayn
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (263 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

4 April 2013

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...

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (4 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571281451
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571281459
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.6 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (263 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 41,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Farce is theatre. I wouldn t have thought it possible to whisk up a novel that is an exquisite, hilarious reflection of the stage format. Michael Frayn s Skios is just that a brilliantly plotted skirmish through events on a Greek island where an important foundation is holding its annual gathering. I loved it.'
The Spectator, Books of the Year

'Michael Frayn's brilliantly plotted Skios, set in and around a plausibly farcical cultural centre in Greece, is laugh-aloud funny, as fine as anything his mentor Wodehouse ever wrote.'
Philip French, The Observer, Books of the Year

'A witty Rube Goldberg construction of a novel... Think 'Being There' set to the staccato pacing of 'Noises Off', and hold on to your funny bones.'

--Library Journal

'The flair for farce that gave Frayn s play Noises Off such comic brio is here uproariously let loose across the pages of a novel. A mix-up with suitcases on a Greek island plunges a pompous elderly lecturer (en route to a cultural symposium) and a raffish young character heading for an amorous assignation into a helter-skelter comedy of errors. The result is a bravura feat of nimbly plotted mishaps and misunderstandings.'
Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times, Books of the Year

'Skios, Michael Frayn's new novel, his first for 10 years, truly does make you laugh out loud.'

--The Observer

'Frayn's latest novel Skios is a side-splitting comic delight, which takes in almost every sub-genre from drop-your-pants farce and slapstick to verbal jokes and a satire of intellectual poseurs.' --The Stage

Book Description

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, a story of mislaid identity, misdirected passion and miscalculated consequences.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Naturally the Foundation will Bear your Expenses 11 Dec 2012
Michael Frayn has said that Skios was a literary experiment to see if a farce could be written as a novel. The premise is that Dr Norman Wilfred, a distinguished academic, is to give a lecture on 'scientometrics' at a research foundation on a Greek island. When Dr Wilfred arrives at the venue, he turns out to be suspiciously young and charming. The explanation is that he is not Dr Wilfred, but Oliver Fox, a floppy-haired Hugh Grant-type character, who decided to impersonate Dr Wilfred after seeing Nikki Hook, the attractive administrator who came to meet the visiting speaker at the airport.

Apart from mistaken identity, many other familiar devices of the genre are present: lost clothing, thwarted romantic designs, preparations for a public event which is bound to go awry. It is all firmly in the Wodehouse tradition.

Skios is elegantly written and, particularly in the first half, pretty funny. Frayn is good on the fatuousness of so many lectures of this type (well captured by the title of Dr Wilfred's talk: 'Innovation and Governance: The Promise of Scientometrics').

But Frayn's literary experiment is not, I think, entirely successful. Although some relaxation of the laws of probability is inevitable in a farce, the events related here go beyond the frontier of the merely improbable into the land of the frankly incredible. Too often the reader finds themselves saying, in Victor Meldrew style, 'I don't believe it!'.

The other weakness is the ending, which is unsatisfying and arbitrary. It is almost as if Frayn simply lost patience with assembling the intricate Swiss watch of his plot and simply threw the thing against the wall.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alas, too short 16 Sep 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Unlike many of the other reviewers here, I didn't buy this expecting great literature or stylistic finesse to rival Proust or Henry James. I found what I wanted - an entertaining read that is light without insulting my intelligence, and plenty of humour, not least in the form of parody (possibly missed by reviewer Not_Stoppard?). I raced through this book, enjoying it greatly almost to the end (the denouement is weak after the tautness of the plotting in the first three-quarters of the book). I can honestly say that I laughed out loud several times, and my biggest disappointment, apart from the handling of the ending, was that it was all over too soon!
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Greek island farce - more beach than Booker 4 Aug 2012
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
Set on a Greek island, a cultural foundation is preparing for the biggest event in its year at which renowned academic Dr Norman Wilfred is due to give the keynote speech. Also heading to the island on the same plane is Oliver Fox, a morally vacant but charming Lothario, who has arranged an assignation with a girl who he has met for only five minutes but has invited to spend a week with him at the villa that he was due spend a week with his ex-girlfriend before she threw him out. But when the girl send to collect Dr Wilfred from the airport, Nikki, turns out to be irresistibly charming Oliver decides to play the role of Dr Wilfred and follow her to the foundation while the real Dr Wilfred, minus luggage is transported to the villa at the other end of the island. Someone still has to give the speech though - will it be the real Dr Wilfred or the fake Dr Wilfred?

As you will have gathered this has all the ingredients for a good, old-fashioned farce. Michael Frayn is as well placed as anyone to explore this now somewhat neglected genre, having written the superb farce play "Noises Off" as well as the screenplay for the John Cleese vehicle "Clockwise". The question remains as to whether the farce genre can work as successfully as a comic novel. Frayn is very far from a one genre practitioner but it's hard to think of any modern writer who is as well versed in the nuances of farce. If anyone can pull it off, it is going to be him.

However, not even a writer of Frayn's undoubted gifts can get quite get this to work successfully. Having said that, it would make a fine holiday read - it's light, easy reading with pleasant doses of humour, although even here, the ending is likely to prove a little disappointing.

There are innumerable challenges a farce writer faces.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 15 July 2013
The idea that in 2013 an event organiser wouldn't have used 'the interweb' to know the age and appearance of her keynote speaker is just ludicrous, and therefore renders the entire plot line unworkable. Had this been set in the 1960's/early 70's it <might> have worked. Even suspending belief, not worth reading I'm afraid.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What a load of rubbish 26 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Complete drivel. i had the sense that the book was written to make into a film starring Hugh Grant at his silliest. Bought it to take on holiday otherwise wouldn't have bothered to finish it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 9 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very disappointed. Used for a local book club review later but did not live up to the credits for me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Frayn's best 5 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Look I will admit some parts are extremely funny especially at the beginning but I know that Michael Frayn has wriiten far better books; "Spies" and "My Father's Fortune" spring to mind. I can't help but feel that "Skios" is more a script for a future play or film.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delicious nonsense! 29 April 2012
By Self-help junkie TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Just the ticket for a rainy afternoon or a long plane journey. Improbability follows improbability but Michael Frayn writes so well youll gladly suspend disbelief! Lots of laugh out loud moments, and it would make a superb film. Great fun, silly nonsense, but somehow classy at the same time.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars hilarious -can't wait to see it performed as a play or film
Funny, witty and thoroughly enjoyable summer read. Laughed out loud. Would make a hilarious play or film. Greek setting was perfect.
Published 8 hours ago by Anne
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time!
This is a terrible book - I didn't find one single character or situation in this book believable! The mix up of luggage and mistaken identities was beyond ridiculous. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Mrs H
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Published 6 days ago by Manda
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Published 8 days ago by Hannibal
5.0 out of 5 stars Skios
This book is like reading a commedia dell' arte I have enjoyed it for my bedtime reading.
Published 18 days ago by Shiba
1.0 out of 5 stars Creative story very badly written!
Ever wondered how a wandering eye with no aim or depth would describe characters and situations? If yes, this is the book for you. Read more
Published 25 days ago by ATG
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Found it quite amusing if a little too short.
Published 25 days ago by quisisana
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This is a very funny book and well worth buying.
Published 1 month ago by B J MORGAN
2.0 out of 5 stars Fine
Funny in parts. The first half of the book better. The ending was poor, however by that point I was pleased it was ending anyway. Read more
Published 1 month ago by hamsterfan
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 1 month ago by djwmps
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