Michael Frayn is best known for his play Noises Off —a classic British farce which wound up as a ho-hum Hollywood film. I was fortunate to have seen the original play.
The author is up to his old tricks again, only this time off the stage and on the page where he craftily takes this novel of mistaken identities to absurd heights—skewering upper class pomposity.
Frayn’s style is fluid and skillful—much like Evelyn Waugh in his early novels. (Think: A Handful of Dust). However, Waugh didn’t write traditional farce à la Molière’s Tartuffe, which is precisely what Frayn excels at. Indeed, it requires a fair bit of precision to set up the plot’s complications. Watching the foundation being laid triggers the initial delight. It’s almost as if the author were wheeling a rickety Trojan horse into position, and the sheer movement of the thing is hysterically funny. And once the Greeks start rampaging out, you’ll throw up your hands and surrender because you saw it all coming.
To say I was rolling on the floor is not an exaggeration. In fact, during one particularly explosive guffaw I nearly lost consciousness. Yes, the message is clear: people really do die laughing. The sheer amount of ha-ha packed into these 257 pages is more than worth the cover price. That’s not to say the book is flawless. The story falters a bit three-quarters of the way through, but by that time I was relishing the pause as my sides ached.
I won’t bother to summarize the plot since it wouldn’t sound nearly as funny as what you’ll experience. I will tell you it’s set in the present on a Greek island which, I suppose, is meant to be Skyros. Can’t say for sure, the Greek islands are all Greek to me.
It’s not surprising that I can count the number of farces I’ve read in recent years on one finger. After all, what writer can possibly compete with the headlines?
Except, of course, for Michael Frayn.
Read Skios and weep.
LINK to pre-order on Amazon