Book Reviews

Reading Skios by Michael Frayn

Sunday has come early this week – I’m posting early because on Sunday itself I will be somewhere over the Mediterranean skies.

I’m taking with me Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón since I like to read novels set in a country I am visiting (in this case, Spain) – the book was recommended by many people who read my Sunday Salon from last week.

I was also planning to take Skios by Michael Frayn which is one of the books long listed for this year’s Man Booker Prize. But  I’ve read about 70 pages so far and it feels very insubstantial, more the kind of book you’d read at the pool with eyes half glazed from the sun. But I want more meat on the bone. So I think I’ll just listen to the audio version.

The novel is set on the Greek island of Skios which is home to the Fred Toppler Foundation. The guest lecturer for this year’s retreat is Dr Norman Wilfred, a world-famous authority on the scientific organisation of science. He’s a man who spends much of his life on the lecture circuit – enjoying champagne hospitality in business class airline seats and sycophantic welcomes by lightly tanned, lightly blonde girls at his destination. Except this trip is different – instead of a luxurious stay in the Toppler Foundation villa, due to a mix up with baggage at the airport, he ends up at a villa at the other end of the island with little more than a copy of his lecture.

Meanwhile, his place at the Toppler is taken by Oliver Fox, a young chancer who seems to spend his entire life dashing from one escapade to another. He is younger than the Toppler organisers were expecting but they are charmed by him nevertheless.

Hm. Yes it’s humorous but so far, it all feels rather predictable – the usual encounters between characters who cannot speak each other’s language. And the characterisation is very light so far.  I chose this one because I’ve enjoyed Michael Frayn’s novels in the past – particularly Headlong and Spies. But Skios just doesn’t feel as if its in the same league at all. And a million miles away from winning the Booker prize in my opinion.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

7 thoughts on “Reading Skios by Michael Frayn

  • Trip was superb – lots of amazing Moorish architecture to marvel at. Sadly, Skios didn’t improve. I’m listening to it as an audio book while driving to work which means I listen with only half my brain awake. Seems just about right for this book!

  • swright9

    Enjoy your trip. I read one of Frayn’s books once and did not like it. It might have been “Democracy” but it was years ago and a bit unsure. Don’t think I will read him again

  • This was a laugh out loud book for me and the first I’ve read by the author. I’d like to read Headlong and Spies, if you think they are better than Skios!

    • They are vastly different though -more thoughtful and certainly not numerous.

      Sent from my iPad

    • I hope that you have a wonderful holiday and that the book gets better.


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