Genre : Fiction
Published : 3 May 2012 - Faber & Faber
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...


This is one of the most amusingly complicated novels since David Lodge’s SMALL WORLD. While the word 'Skios' suggests the Greek root for 'knowledge' or 'knowing', most of the characters in Frayn’s novel don’t have a clue about what’s going on. No matter. By page 2, readers will know without any doubt that they are in for a wonderful time.

Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

Its pages are so brilliantly funny that tears of laughter make the print swim in front of your eyes... Alongside the virtuoso comic choreography, the prose is alive with deadpan wit. A shimmer of irony plays over scenes... Sardonic metaphors, neat puns and smart jokes further burnish the book's sparkle... SKIOS leaves you floating with so much euphoria.

Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times

Truly does make you laugh out loud. I sniggered on the train and the bus; I sniggered in the kitchen, the bedroom and, on one occasion, in the shower. I wasn't reading the book in the shower, obviously. But I was thinking about it, and that was enough – [SKIOS] really is hilarious.

Rachel Cooke, The Observer

Frayn’s absorbing new book, SKIOS, shows him at his comic best... the plot works like an ingenious and all-consuming machine but the people trapped inside it are defiantly full of vitality... The physical comedy is expertly managed...this is a transfixingly witty’s covertly serious, packaging metaphysics in a style that’s cinematic and inventive.

Henry Hitchings, Financial Times

‘There’s no denying that SKIOS could be seen as an exercise in technical virtuosity... even such a flat-out comedy as this soon proves to have its serious undertones... the theme of things not being what they seem continually broadens... the laughs are accompanied by something far more apocalyptic. Yet, in the end, what makes SKIOS such an impressive piece of work is not that these elements co-exist, but that they are so completely blended... In his play COPENHAGEN, Frayn famously explored the Uncertainty Principle through a meeting between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. Here, he does the same thing through... hugely entertaining farce.

(5 stars) James Walton, The Daily Telegraph

Frayn… builds his puzzle so painstakingly and tells his story so engagingly, you want to jump in his lap and build a nest for winter... such good company you hate for the story to end.

The New York Times Book Review

SKIOS is pure farce: a comic novel of the old school... The novel hurtles along... It even takes a swerve in the direction of metafiction as it reaches its denouement - perhaps irresistible in a novel powered by improbable chains of causation, and when its author is so conscious a craftsman. But really, this is a romp - tightly and absurdly plotted, consistently amusing, and studded with gentle good jokes... The writing is quietly but unobtrusively stylish.

Sam Leith, Literary Review

Farce isn’t something that always works in fiction, but Michael Frayn is an urbane British Feydeau with a matchless eye for embarrassment and misunderstanding.

Kate Saunders, The Times

In the hands of someone less accomplished, the events in SKIOS would be too improbable ... As it is, you can sit back and let the book lap over you like the warm waters surrounding the imaginary Greek isle of the title.

Cressida Connolly, The Spectator

Effortlessly funny... Frayn is adept at making the most of what lesser mortals might define as nothing... As ever, Michael Frayn, one of England's funniest novelists, knows only too well of what he speaks.


A tour de force of a farce and the perfect summer read...he’s a literary genius... one of our most sublime comic writers... It is not just the entertaining set pieces but the quality of the writing that makes the book such a joy to read.

Sebastian Shakespeare, Tatler

This is real farce. The kind of thing that made Frayn famous as a playwright ... but which is rarely achieved by novelists.

Melissa Katsoulis, The Times

A brand new comedy novel from the master of farce and author of SPIES and HEADLONG... A story of mislaid identity, misdirected passion and miscalculated consequences, set on a remote Greek island. One of our sharpest novelists and most amusing (and thoughtful) of playwrights.

Peter Lewis, Daily Mail

[Frayn] marshals every strand and player with seamless adroitness and winds the 'great gear-chain of cause and effect' mercilessly. The result is a wonderfully diverting entertainment, something Wodehouse might have written if Blandings Castle had been perched on the edge of the Aegean.

Michael Prodger, Evening Standard

The pieces of this intricate farce click into place with all the assurance you'd expect from the author of NOISES OFF... The denouement is pitch-perfect. Guaranteed to make many an appearance on holiday-reading lists this summer.

Amber Pearson, Mail Online

Michael Frayn, the farceur 'by whom all others must be measured' (CURTAINUP), tells a story of personal and professional disintegration, probing his eternal theme of how we know what we know even as he delivers us to the outer limits of hilarity.

Awkward sexual encounters, mistaken identities and buffoonish caricatures of powerful men and women litter the plot of this engaging, occasionally bawdy comedy... SKIOS sparkles with a precise, theatrical timing.

Yasmin Sulaiman, The List

Cracking read. At the almost close of proceedings, Frayn lifts the curtain to map out what might have happened – revealing the authorial hand guiding the action. It’s a deft and clever touch ... If you’ve always regarded farce as something you don’t have to dally with, SKIOS could well the book to change your mind.


Immensely entertaining".

Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

SKIOS is a virtuoso performance, and very funny".

The New Yorker

A lacerating satire, with characters propelled by equal parts accident and self-interest in a world in which academic and political luminaries are as vapid as the fraud they fawn over.

Publishers Weekly

A rib-tickler that doubles as a philosophical head-scratcher, blending classic farce with musings on (mistaken) identity and fate... Frayn’s 11th novel is full of sublimely choreographed slapstick.

Hephzibah Anderson, Bloomberg News

Skios will find its way into many backpacks this summer, and deservedly so. It's a pacy, engaging read, allowing Frayn to unfurl regular bursts of his coruscating intellect while remaining amusing throughout and, particularly in the confused interactions between Fox and the foundation's moneyed guests, downright hilarious.

Alex Preston, Observer

Ingeniously clever, riotously silly... Skios is a joy: light and limber and very, very funny."<br />

David Evans, Independent

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