Catherine Woodman's Reviews > Skios

Skios by Michael Frayn
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Sep 07, 12


The second of my 2012 Man Booker long list books is also not a likely winner--it is just too fun and upbeat to be competative, I fear. Frayn is the author of one of my modern favorite plays (Copenhagen), but this book is squarely in the realm of his other well loved play 'Noises Off'. It plays on the theme of mistaken identity from start to finish, and while the premise is a bit of a stretch, suspention of believe is often a necessary first step in enjoying fiction. So off we go. Dr Norman Wilfred is a "genuine celebrity" in the world of science management; he is the key note speaker at the Fred Toppler Foundation on the fictional Greek island of Skios, invited to give his classic lecture "Innovation and Governance: the Promise of Scientometrics". Snore. Fortunately, that is not what ends up happening.
Let the exchange of identity begin! At the airpoort Oliver Fox by chance picks up Dr Wilfred's identical suitcase at the carousel, and when he sees Nikki, the foundation-appointed minder, waiting at arrivals with a sign saying "Dr Norman Wilfred", he decides to assume the academic's identity; he is soon charming the other guests with his clueless but witty remarks on scientometrics. Dr Wilfred, meanwhile, is duly whisked off by Oliver's pre-ordered taxi to a villa (again, you have to suspend belief to like this), where he goes to sleep and wakes up to find Oliver's newly arrived weekend guest, Georgie, in his bed. Of course, Georgie and Nikki are the best of friends, Nikki, while not quite sure hoe Dr. Winfred got to where he is at so young an age, is more occupied with planning a brief fling with him than sussing out his real identity, and there apeear to only be two cab drivers on the whole island, and they are brothers who communicate with each other--mandatory for the farce to be completely pulled off. Meanwhile, Oliver's angry girlfriend arrives on the island; a Greek shipping magnate and a Russian oligarch also become embroiled in the action. It is a romp, pure and simple, and I for one very much enjoyed it.
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