Review 2012 Man Booker Long Listed Book: Skios

This is a story of mistaken identity that turns into mass hi jinx on the Greek Island of Skios.  Dr. Norman Wilfred has been invited to be the keynote speaker at the Annual Fred Toppler Foundation Fundraiser. Nikki is the PA in charge of getting Dr. Wilfred to the party. Oliver Fox is a “famous” womanizer that has traded one woman for another for a weekend getaway in a borrowed villa. In a typical Three’s Company kind of way things quickly get all mixed up as Nikki mistakes Oliver for Dr. Wilfred.

As Oliver finishes reading a text from Georgie, his hook-up of the week, he spots Nikki holding the sign for Dr. Wilfred. She is blonde and beautiful and is giving him a look that he has seen before. He decides to take a “detour” since Georgie has missed her plane and will not arrive until the next day (hee hee– he muses to himself that it only makes sense to “become this Doctor Wilfred guy” since he thinks he would have made a good doctor if only he would have continued his education– lots of tidbits like this help to make this an enjoyable and witty read). Nikki is only too pleased to accept that the suspected stuffy lecturer ends up being a dreamy hunk instead– she seems to be a bit of a workaholic girl who is looking for a man to take her away from it all. All it takes is a line and Nikki and Oliver retrieve his bag and head off for the foundation.

At the same time Dr. Wilfred is the last to disembark the plane. He has had a miserable flight and has just received a nasty-gram about his research (the scientific management of science– figure THAT one out!!). He MUST respond immediately– even before retrieving his bag. This, of course, allows for Oliver to take it instead, leaving him with Oliver’s stolen bag (belonging to Annuka Vos– the owner of the villa and Oliver’s original hook-up). No one is being very helpful at the airport and he cannot seem to find the rep from the Fred Toppler Foundation (let alone remember the name of the place) so he asks for a taxi. Enter Spiros (or Stavros), one of the local taxi driving brothers, who doesn’t really speak much English (except for “no problem”). He does keep repeating the word Phoksoliva until Dr. Wilfred FINALLY just says “yes! Whatever! Phoksoliva!” and that is how easily he gets mistaken for Oliver Fox. He is promptly driven to the hook-up villa.

All kinds of mayhem ensues as Oliver tries to fake his way through conversations and debates as Dr. Wilfred (while at the same time trying to get down Nikki’s pants); as the real Dr. Wilfred encounters Georgie, who shows up early and crawls into bed with him naked; as Spiros and Stavros speak their broken English and drive everyone around the island; as Mrs. Fred Toppler is revealed as an ex-burlesque dancer who made up the foundation using her deceased millionaire husband’s cash and is currently entertaining a Skios Greek Mafia big wig; and it all ends with Annuka and Georgie showing up and causing a big scene at the lecture. I wonder if this was initially written as a screen play because I can totally see it as a Rom-Com starring Jennifer Anniston or Cameron Diaz as Nikki with Zack Effron as Oliver and Jim Broadbent as Dr. Wilfred.

It does confuse me that this one was picked for the long list. I mean, it wasn’t bad or anything but it seemed to me a simple, light-hearted beach read– the type of book that passes without trumpets or fanfare. Michael Frayn must be just ecstatic that he got the Man Booker nod. 3 stars– a fun romp that will be easily forgotten but I wouldn’t say no to the movie!

Ps. This line cracked me up because it reminded me of that movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It was said by the Greek cook, Yannis, when he was told to make sure that all of the food was onion-free:

When I was kid in Piraeus was only two sorts of food. Was food, and was no food.

Simultaneously posted by Jackie on BookerMarks.