Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Review: SKIOS, by Michael Frayn
So, what got my attention about Skios was two things. First, it was longlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize. Second, its author wrote the very silly play "Noises Off."
This is a very silly book.
The plot hangs on a thin premise that some readers won't be able to buy into. Stuffy academic Dr. Norman Wilfred is making his way to the private Greek island of Skios for an international jet-setter's weekend conference. His is to be the keynote address and his presence is a big draw for the wealthy donors to an NGO. He's an older guy, kind of set in his ways and whose charisma owes more to habit than to actual charm. Enter Oliver Fox, an English playboy. Oliver Fox and Wilfred Owen, through circumstances I won't go into, end up with their identities switched. And then the fun really begins.
Stuck in the middle is hapless Nikki Hook, in charge of organizing the weekend. She is a bundle of nerves and anxiety and nearly becomes unhinged as events take their course. Other characters have significant roles to play but basically the book comes down to waiting to see what's going to happen when the ruse is finally up.
All I can say is, if you can put your brain on hold and just go along for the ride, Skios is a fun book. It's definitely a beach book- it reads fast and it's got an undeniable air of frivolity. Some reviewers think it asks deep questions about the meaning of identity; I don't know about that. It's also a great book to read this winter if you live in New England- you'll be feeling that Greek sunshine coming right through the page.
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.