What’s it about?
On the sunlit Greek island of Skios, the Fred Toppler Foundation is preparing for the most important event in its calendar; its annual lecture. This year they have secured a major star; Dr Norman Wilfred, the world-famous authority on the scientific organisation of science. When he arrives he turns out to be surprisingly young and charming – not at all the intimidating figure they had been expecting.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the island, a young woman 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…
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.
This is the first Michael Frayn novel that I’ve read and I really enjoyed it. I’m not someone that tends to laugh out loud at books but this did make me chuckle!
It’s clear from the outset how this novel is going to go…the combination of incorrect assumptions, mistaken identities and the communication and the language barriers make for a very funny read.
The main characters are pretending to be something they’re not and you’re just waiting for them to come unstuck and be found out. The misunderstanding between Skios and skiers , the taxi drivers and Wilfred’s misunderstanding of Phoksoliva and the ‘security’ opening fire in the darkness when a guest shouts ‘fire’ as the Sheikh sleeves sets alight are just some of the gems in this farce. You gotta feel sorry for poor Wilfred though, he doesn’t actually sound like he enjoys these events yet off he goes to a new place and has the worst experience. Poor love!
If this book were to be made into a film, I’m sure it would be very Monty Python, A Fish called Wanda esque. So read it you’re into these types of films, although it’s not too taxing and makes for a good Summer read or will even brighten your dark Winter nights!