Michael Frayn - Skios (4 stars)

Michael Frayn - Skios

An astute and entertaining comic novel from the erstwhile playwright


Michael Frayn’s new novel is a farce of Carry On proportions. Awkward sexual encounters, mistaken identities and buffoonish caricatures of powerful men and women litter the plot of this engaging, occasionally bawdy comedy. To many, Frayn is better known for his plays – such as Noises Off and Copenhagen – than his novels, and Skios sparkles with a precise, theatrical timing that just about pulls off even the most grotesque and ridiculous jokes.

The illustrious Dr Norman Wilfred is flying to an idyllic Greek island to deliver the annual lecture for a prominent cultural foundation. But at the airport, he manages to switch existences with Oliver Fox, a notorious playboy looking for a new adventure.

As in many classic farces, hapless Brits abroad take centre stage while charming locals and wealthy Americans provide a string of background jokes. But Frayn’s story is cleverer than this and he pierces through the self-importance of egotistical academics and their benefactors. Skios is entertaining and astute, though its chaotic ending may leave some readers a little unsatisfied.

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