Skios is Michael Frayn’s entry for the Man Booker Prize this year. Frayn, a septuagenarian British Renaissance Man (he is the premier translator of Chekhov’s plays in the UK), has carefully crafted a novel of mistaken identity at the Fred Toppler Foundation’s annual Great European House Party on the remote Greek island of Skios. The book is hilarious.
Oscar Wilde himself would be proud in the way Frayn concocts a plot where the roguish Oliver Fox assumes the identity of scholar, Dr. Norman Wilfred, the event’s keynote speaker. This occurs despite Fox’s handsome, thirtyish features, punctuated by a mop of very blond hair, while Dr. Wilfred is balding, frumpish, and fiftyish.
The sly Fox charms and mesmerizes an interesting array of supporting female characters. These include Nikki, the event creator, Mrs. Fred Toppler, a former American strip tease artist whose inherited wealth funds this Greek shindig, and the enigmatic Mrs. Skorbatova, the wife of a Russian mobster.
Although Skios is a delightfully entertaining read, I think that perhaps it is better suited for either film or television, media in which Mr. Frayn has considerable experience. I can just see Owen Wilson playing the role of Oliver Fox!