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 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 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, who has 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 his sense of reality - everything he possesses apart from the flyblown text of a well-travelled lecture on the scientific organisation of science...
©2012 Michael Frayn (P)2012 AudioGO Ltd
Just finished listening to this very funny book brilliantly read by Martin Jarvis. A real laugh out loud experience
Having thoroughly enjoyed Spies by Michael Frayn, I have not found the other books that I've read by him to be anywhere near as good. Skios was no exception. It was full of irritatingly stupid people with no idea where they are or what they are supposed to be doing. It was better suited to a play in the genre of farce, which I would then avoid.
The main character is Oliver Fox, who decides to take on the identity of Dr Norman Wilfred, simply because he takes a fancy to the young lady holding a placard bearing that name at Skios airport. It turns out that Dr Norman Wilfred is due to give an important speech at the Toppler Foundation and VIPs have come from all over the world to hear it. Oliver Fox is a bit of a stand-up commedian and manages to fool many of the VIPs by waffling a lot of nonsense.
Meanwhile, the real Dr Norman Wilfred finds himself at a villa with the young lady who Oliver Fox was supposed to liaise with for an illicit weekend. Needless to say she is not impressed to find this elderly gentleman in her bed.
After a lot of screaming and flat or lost mobile phones, some sort of a solution evolves. By this time I was so bored and frustrated that I was not in the slightest bit interested.
I listened to this as an unabridged audiobook, if I had been reading it I would have abandoned it and given it just one star. This has been my worst read so far this year and I have no idea what it was doing in the Booker Long List.
Also read by Michael Frayn:
Spies (5 stars)
Headlong (3 stars)
Sweet Dreams (2 stars)
Despite convolutions of mistaken identities on Skios it is an easy to follow plot brilliantly written and really well read. Laughed out loud many times so watch where you listen!
A perfect audible book.
From the synopsis I thought this sounded an interesting listen so thought it was worth a try. I felt rather let down, the narration in itself was fine, Martin Jarvis has a good storytelling style. The trouble was the story, the charaters was irritating and unbelieveable, at one point I thought it was a spoof and it may very well of turned out to be as I never bothered to listen to the end. I just got fed up with trying to believe these people would really behave that way!
In less skilled hands this might be dismissed as chicklit escapism, but Michael Frayn's superbly clever plotting and Martin Jarvis's pitch-perfect delivery offer delights throughout.
I picked book because of the title as it is set on a Greek island but didn't really know what to expect. The reader Martin Jarvis is excellent and the scene was set perfectly. Whilst travelling to work by bus I often had to stop myself laughing out loud when reading this book. It cerainly brought Greek sunshine as well as laughter ito a miserable winter.
As I listened to this I found myself drawn into what, at first sight, was a fairly superficial farce. However, I was reacting to what was happening to the characters; it had an unexpected depth that I cannot explain except that it is very well written and narrated, Martin Jarvis's style being an ideal match. The author switches scenes at the approach of every climactic moment and although rather predictable, by the end, I was able to sit back mentally and enjoy it It was not laugh-out-loud but was fun to listen to and, although at times I was impatient to hear what happened next, I would not want it abbreviated. .
I like Michael Frayn and loved Spies but maybe I wasn't in the mood for the this. Humour is a strange and personal thing. It's a well written farce but it only made me smile a couple of times and sometimes, especially at the beginning, I found it irritating and over long. Martin Jarvis, though, can always be relied on as a great reader and is as good as usual here.
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