By Michael Frayn.
On the obscure, private Greek island of Skios, tucked away in a seemingly idyllic setting is the Fred Toppler foundation. The reclusive-director’s PA and hopeful director in waiting, Nikki Hook, Is preparing for the big annual event. She has arranged the catering, transport and accommodation. She has invited the guests, written the director’s wife’s welcome speech for the visiting speaker and has persuaded a world renowned academic who has been consulted by governments to give the keynote address.
Unfortunately for Nikki, a mix up at the airport occurs when she goes to pick up the speaker, and from then onward nothing goes as planned, as you might have guessed. Nikki picks up Oliver Fox, who assumes the identity of the intended speaker, at the airport. Oliver is a disreputable womaniser on the island to spend an illicit few days with someone else’s girlfriend. His main talents seem to be a glib ability to talk his way out of most situations and ingratiate himself with a wide variety of people.
One of the professional reviewers said of Frayn’s Skios, “It’s unlikely that there’ll be another book this year that will make you laugh as much as this one does”. I found the book was amusing but of the 278 pages of the story, I only actually laughed on page 177. Another reviewer said it was “A beautifully engineered farce”. I grant that it was quite well put together but that wasnt enough to make it funny, at tleast not for me.
I found the ending quite a let down, with none of the characters getting what it seemed he or she should have coming to them, good or bad. The last line of the book, and I give nothing away by quoting it, includes “I’m sure none of us here will ever forget”. I’m afraid this might well be a book I will forget. At least I can find no reason to remember it. It is unlikely I will pick up anything else by Michael Frayn.
“For a moment he was a living metaphor of the human condition.
He knew not whence he came nor wither he was bound.”
– Oliver Fox, pretending to be Dr. Norman Wilfred.