By Michael Frayn
(Metropolitan Books, Hardcover, 9780805095494, 272pp.)
Publication Date: June 19, 2012
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The great master of farce turns to an exclusive island retreat for a comedy of mislaid identities, unruly passions, and demented, delicious disorder
On the private Greek island of Skios, the high-paying guests of a world-renowned foundation prepare for the annual keynote address, to be given this year by Dr. Norman Wilfred, an eminent authority on the scientific organization of science. He turns out to be surprisingly youthful, handsome, and charming—quite unlike his reputation as dry and intimidating. Everyone is soon eating out of his hands. So, even sooner, is Nikki, the foundation's attractive and efficient organizer.
Meanwhile, in a remote villa at the other end of the island, Nikki's old friend Georgie has rashly agreed to spend a furtive horizontal weekend with a notorious schemer, who has characteristically failed to turn up. Trapped there with her instead is a pompous, balding individual called Dr. Norman Wilfred, who has lost his whereabouts, his luggage, his temper, and increasingly all sense of reality—indeed, everything he possesses other than the text of a well-traveled lecture on the scientific organization of science.
In a spiraling farce about upright academics, gilded captains of industry, ambitious climbers, and dotty philanthropists, Michael Frayn, the farceur "by whom all others must be measured" (CurtainUp), tells a story of personal and professional disintegration, probing his eternal theme of how we know what we know even as he delivers us to the outer limits of hilarity.
Michael Frayn is the author of ten novels, including the bestselling Headlong, which was a New York Times Editors' Choice selection and a Booker Prize finalist, and Spies, which received the Whitbread Fiction Award. He has also written a memoir, My Father's Fortune, and fifteen plays, among them Noises Off and Copenhagen, which won three Tony Awards. He lives just south of London.
Long-listed for the 2012 Man Booker Prize
“Expertly written, genuine fun... Frayn builds his puzzle so painstakingly and tells his story so engagingly, you want to jump in his lap and build a nest.”
—Alex Witchel, The New York Times Book Review
“Are you, perhaps even now, searching for the perfect comic novel for the beach, the hammock or some lazy summer weekend? Say ‘yes’ to any of these questions and you should immediately head for your bookstore to buy a copy of Frayn’s new book, Skios, a romantic comedy constructed with the quick cutting and pace of a Marx Brothers movie… This is one of the most amusingly complicated novels since David Lodge’s Small World. By page 2, readers will know without any doubt that they are in for a wonderful time.”
—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
“A paragon of academic satire, this novel is also a shining example of the drama of mistaken identities… Like much of Frayn’s work, Skios is a virtuoso performance, and very funny, but underneath it all is a melancholy truth: many people are unhappy with who they are and wouldn't mind being mistaken for someone else.”
—The New Yorker
“Masterly crafted farce...Under Frayn’s peerless choreography, the comedy gods of mistaken identity are having a mad romp. Frayn is so devilishly good at clicking the pieces into place that watching him build his contraption is its own entertainment.”
“Fiendishly funny... Frayn creates a convincing world so endearingly vulnerable to this kind of mayhem that farce seems inevitable, yet you wind up rooting for the irredeemably irresponsible protagonist to get away with it.”
—North Coast Journal
“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.”
“Truly does make you laugh out loud. I sniggered on the train and the bus; I sniggered in the kitchen, the bedroom and, on one occasion, in the shower. I wasn’t reading the book in the shower, obviously. But I was thinking about it, and that was enough—Skios really is hilarious.”
—The Observer (UK)
“In the hands of someone less accomplished, the events in Skios would be too improbable... As it is, you can sit back and let the book lap over you like the warm waters surrounding this Greek isle.”
—The Spectator (UK)
“The pieces of this intricate farce click into place with all the assurance you’d expect from the author of Noises Off... The denouement is pitch-perfect. Guaranteed to make many an appearance on holiday-reading lists this summer.”
—Daily Mail (UK)
“Awkward sexual encounters, mistaken identities and buffoonish caricatures of powerful men and women litter the plot of this engaging, even bawdy comedy... Skios sparkles with a precise, theatrical timing.”
—The List (UK)
“A cracking read. At the almost-close of proceedings, Frayn lifts the curtain to map out what might have happened—revealing the authorial hand guiding the action. It’s a deft and clever touch... If you’ve always regarded farce as something you don’t have to dally with, Skios could well the book to change your mind.”