Headlong by Michael Frayn
A Novel

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An unlikely con man wagers wife, wealth, and sanity in pursuit of an elusive Old Master.

Invited to dinner by the boorish local landowner, Martin Clay, an easily distracted philosopher, and his art-historian wife are asked to assess three dusty paintings blocking the draught from the chimney. But hiding beneath the soot is nothing less-Martin believes-than a lost work by Bruegel. So begins a hilarious trail of lies and concealments, desperate schemes and soaring hopes as Martin, betting all that he owns and much that he doesn't, embarks on a quest to prove his hunch, win his wife over, and separate the painting from its owner.

In Headlong, Michael Frayn, "the master of what is seriously funny" (Anthony Burgess), offers a procession of superbly realized characters, from the country squire gone to seed to his giddy, oversexed young wife. All are burdened by human muddle and human cravings; all are searching for a moral compass as they grapple with greed, folly, and desire. And at the heart of the clamor is Breugel's vision, its dark tones warning of the real risks of temptation and obsession.

With this new novel, Michael Frayn has given us entertainment of the highest order. Supremely wise and wickedly funny, Headlong elevates Frayn into the front rank of contemporary novelists.


About Michael Frayn

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Michael Frayn is the author of nine novels, including the bestselling Headlong, which was a New York Times Editor's Choice selection and a Booker Prize finalist. He has also written thirteen plays, among them Noises Off and Copenhagen, which won three Tony Awards in 1999. He lives in London.
Published September 1, 2000 by Metropolitan Books. 351 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Literature & Fiction, History, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Comics & Graphic Novels. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Headlong

Publishers Weekly

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The comedy arises from Martin's efforts to ascertain its provenance, raise some money for a token payment and somehow spirit the painting away from the churlish Tony Churt, calm the suspicions of his art historian wife, Kate, who is surprised by his sudden interest in her field, and fend off the ...

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AV Club

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Though greed, arrogance, solipsism, and marital strife all play their charged roles in Michael Frayn's Headlong, it's primarily a comic novel about research—not exactly the most tantalizing satirical hook, especially when that research covers topics as obscure as "the impact of nominalism on Neth...

Mar 29 2002 | Read Full Review of Headlong: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

Originally posted Sep 03, 1999 Published in issue #501 Sep 03, 1999 Order article reprints

Sep 03 1999 | Read Full Review of Headlong: A Novel

London Review of Books

The narrative of Martin’s altered life, his frequent trips from the country back to London to check things out in the V&A or the London Library, his need of Kate’s support and confirmation of his hunch combined with a need to keep her scepticism at bay – she is the art historian after all – and h...

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