A Novel

Frayn, Michael

Book - 1999
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
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.

Publisher: New York : Metropolitan Books, 1999
Edition: 1st American ed
ISBN: 0805062858
Branch Call Number: FICTION FRAYN
Characteristics: 342 p. ;,25 cm


From Library Staff

An unlikely con man wagers wife, wealth, and sanity when he finds what he’s sure is a lost masterpiece by Bruegel. With a procession of superbly realized characters: all are burdened by human muddle and human cravings, and all are searching for a moral compass as they grapple with greed, folly, a... Read More »

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Jul 17, 2013
  • gloryb rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Having some familiarity with Bruegal's paintings may keep your interest in this story as a good portion of it concerns the details found in his paintings and the sources of inspiration for these depictions. Surrounding those descriptions of course is the story of an art historian who thinks he has found one of Bruegal's lost paintings and tries to get a hold of it bankrupting himself in the meantime and threatening his happy family life. It's a story of obsession, interpretations of paintings, and finding "a good deal" for priceless art. Very enjoyable!

Sep 09, 2012
  • uncommonreader rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

This story is set in the context of the comic misadventure of a would-be art historian and in the style of a detective novel. It is very good on the historic period and on Breugel's art. I particularly liked how Frayn "reads" a painting in terms of its icongraphy and iconology. Recommended.

Aug 21, 2012
  • barbros rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Simply delightful.

Jun 19, 2012

Very interesting about Bruegel and the history of The Netherlands. How wonderful it would be to look up the image of each painting mentioned as you go, not only the real Bruegels but also the several portraits of contemporary figures in history. I didn’t do that, but I did look at the Bruegels afterwards, and I will have a deeper appreciation for his work from now on.
I have to take issue with the reviewers who complained that the history and art history discussions brought the plot to a standstill. They seem to have Michael Frayn locked into his farceur (love that word!) mode, whereas I found those discussions the most compelling element of the book.
I could not put much stock, however, in the significance of the painter’s changing his own name from Bruegel to Brueghel and back again. After all, a generation later, William Shakespeare was spelling his own name several different ways, sometimes within one document.
And the idea of a long-lost Bruegel is not so far-fetched; after all, the Prado discovered one in 2010.


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