A Novel

Book - 2012
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize

'Good God, thought Oliver, as he saw the smile. She thinks I'm him! And all at once he knew it was so. He was Dr Norman Wilfred.'

On the sunlit Greek island of Skios, the Fred Toppler Foundation's annual lecture is to be given by Dr Norman Wilfred, the world-famous authority on the scientific organisation of science. He turns out to be surprisingly young and charming - not at all the intimidating figure they had been expecting. The Foundation's guests are soon eating out of his hand. So, even sooner, is Nikki, the attractive and efficient organiser.

Meanwhile, in a remote villa at the other end of the island, Nikki's old school-friend Georgie waits for the notorious chancer she has rashly agreed to go on holiday with, and who has only too characteristically failed to turn up. Trapped in the villa with her, by an unfortunate chain of misadventure, is a balding old gent called Dr Norman Wilfred, who has lost his whereabouts, his luggage, his temper and increasingly all normal sense of reality - everything he possesses apart from the flyblown text of a well-travelled lecture on the scientific organisation of science...

And as the time draws ever nearer for one or other Dr Wilfred - or possibly both - to give the eagerly awaited lecture, so Skios - Greece - Europe - career off their appointed track.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Skios is a story of mislaid identity, misdirected passion and miscalculated consequences. Michael Frayn is also the celebrated author of fifteen plays including Noises Off , Copenhagen and Afterlife. His other bestselling novels include Headlong , which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and Spies , which won the Whitbread Best Novel Award.

Publisher: London : Faber and Faber, 2012.
Edition: Export edition
ISBN: 9780571281428
Branch Call Number: FIC Frayn
Characteristics: 278 pages ; 22 cm.


From Library Staff

List - Great Summer Reads
OPLReads Jun 25, 2014

If you have seen Michael Frayn's wonderful stage farce, Noises Off, you will have some idea of what awaits you here. All the farce elements of mistaken identity, misunderstanding and total confusion are employed as a group of academics gather for a literary convention on a Greek island. It's all ... Read More »

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Mar 30, 2014

Fans of British humor (Kingsley Amis, David Lodge et al) will be disappointed at this lively but uneven and not much of a laugh-inducing farce ending with absurdity. More for fans of present day American sitcoms with situational rather than literary or character humor.

IMolina3 Jan 19, 2014

I particularly did not like this book.. i gave it a couple of chances readin it, but it bored me as a fudge..

Jul 03, 2013

Spent a very pleasant afternoon reading this Frayn novel. Laughed out loud several times. Nothing serious in this book as the author pokes fun at conference organizers, attendees, guests of honor, and relationships.
Having been in airports where meeters are present with name cards, I too have wondered what would happen if the wrong person approached the meeters identifying themselves wrongly as the named person. What a fun book! I'll try some of his other novels now.

WVMLStaffPicks Jun 08, 2013

Assumed identities, false assumptions, finding strangers in ones’ beds, pretensions, cads, bounders, clever maidens, and an exotic setting add up to a rollicking farce. Shakespeare’s comedies with air travel, cell phones and modern mores.

Apr 15, 2013

Frayn is truly a master of farce. This novel would make a great play à la "Noises Off".

Mar 18, 2013

A pleasant surprise, I wasn't expecting to enjoy it much after reading scathing opinions of Booker prize buffs when it was long listed last year. However, I found it funny and charming, characters believeable albeit in an intentionally unbelieveable setting of a commedy of errors. Good old fashioned fun.

Jan 05, 2013

I laughted out loud while reading.

crankylibrarian Sep 27, 2012

Sort of like "What's Up Doc?" meets _Being and Nothingness_. The lives of two passengers on a luxury flight to Greece become hopelessly intertwined: Oliver Fox, charming n'er do well, walks off with the suitcase and identify of acclaimed lecturer and academic celebrity Dr. Norman Wilfred; meanwhile the real Dr. Wilfred finds himself staying in the villa (complete with perennially underclad girlfriend ) of Oliver Fox. What begins as a whimsical lark for Oliver becomes increasingly complicated as lovers and ex-lovers, socialites, international gangsters, saturnine cab drivers and a very confused conference director all become embroiled in his deception. Eventually, neither Oliver nor Dr Wilfred is completely secure in his own identity, as each slips further into the life of his doppelgänger. With an ear for pseduo-intellectual babble and a colorful cast of secondary characters, Frayn's satire on academic celebrity and the willingness to see silk purses in sow's ears will resonate for many.

Aug 21, 2012

Madcap comic tale set on a sun-drenched Greek island, with an unexpected ending the author doesn't seem to take seriously. A bit disappointing after Headlong.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at OPL

To Top