Paperback review: Skio, By Michael Frayn
Beware of Greeks bearing iPhones
Saturday 18 May 2013
Michael Frayn's ingeniously clever, riotously silly novel is set on the eponymous Greek island, where a charitable foundation is preparing to host a gala dinner for an array of important guests. The keynote speaker, bumptious Dr Norman Wilfred – an authority in "Scientometrics" – arrives only to find that someone else has commandeered his luggage.
The culprit is one Oliver Fox, a toffish bon vivant who is mistaken for Wilfred at Skios airport and charmingly plays along (Scientometrics is all Greek to him, but he gamely extemporises). Meanwhile the doctor himself ends up ensconced in the same countryside villa as Fox's attractive mistress – and forgets all about his speech.
Writing this sort of madcap comedy must be more difficult than it was when the master farceur gave us Noises Off (1982) or the film Clockwise (1986): nowadays a quick internet search is all that's needed to prevent wrong turnings and social mix-ups. Frayn solves this problem by way of some rather convenient accidents: characters repeatedly forget to charge their iPhones – or drop them in the pool.
But, so long as you're willing to suspend some disbelief, Skios is a joy: light and limber and very, very funny. Frayn manipulates the various elements like a mischievous Olympian deity, interspersing slapstick comedy with observations on fate, free will and foreknowledge absolute. Caught up in a chain of coincidence, he writes, Fox and Wilfred might have guessed that their destiny was ordained – "not that it would have helped them very much".
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 A politically correct lefty goes to see Top Gear live – you'll probably believe what happened next
- 3 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 4 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 5 Snoop Dogg on why he doesn't regret displaying misogyny towards women
Art Garfunkel calls Paul Simon a 'monster' with a Napoleon complex
Eurovision 2015 winner: Sweden beats Russia and Italy to take the title from Conchita Wurst
Dheepan, film review: Palme d'Or prize goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Game of Thrones, The Gift, Season 5, Episode 7: Why two of the show’s most iconic characters just met
Eurovision 2015: Estonia seemingly enters Louis Tomlinson from One Direction
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland