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Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

Headlong begins when Martin Clay, a young would-be art historian, believes he has discovered a missing masterpiece. The owner of the painting is oblivious to its potential and asks Martin to help him sell it, leaving Martin with the chance of a lifetime: if he could only separate the painter from its owner, he would be able to perform a great public service, to make his professional reputation, perhaps even rather a lot of money as well. But is the painting really what Martin believes it to be? As Martin is drawn further into this moral and intellectual labyrinth, events start to spiral out of control . . .

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Whitbread Novel Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction, Headlong is an ingeniously comic thriller that follows a young philosophy lectuerer's obsessive race through the art world in search of an elusive masterpiece. Michael Frayn's other novels include Spies, which won the Whitbread Best Novel award, and Skios, which was longlisted for the Booker Prize.

From Publishers Weekly

30 August 1999 – Frayn, a highly successful playwright (Noises Off) as well as a novelist of note (A Landing on the Sun; Now You Know), is an odd combination of skilled farceur and scholar, and these strands in his work seem somewhat at odds in this new novel, his first in six years. It is an intellectual comedy, veering occasionally into knockabout, revolving around a philosophical historian, Martin Clay, and his discovery, in the dilapidated manor house of a frightful country neighbor, of a painting he believes to be a missing Bruegel. 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 advances of the highly flirtatious Laura Churt. Frayn is wonderfully funny about English country life, the mustier byways of art history, the art auction business and the deviousness that lurks within apparently mild-mannered art historians. But he has obviously read up extensively on Bruegel, his period and the possible political symbolism of the series of paintings of the seasons to which Churt's picture apparently belongs; and Frayn cannot resist giving the benefits of his scholarship back to the reader, at often exhaustive length, entirely halting his promisingly frolicsome narrative in the process. His attempts to give his lighthearted plot some intellectual weight almost sink the good parts--a pity, since Frayn proves himself again and again a highly civilized entertainer, and the good parts are both funny and true. 50,000 first printing; 7-city author tour.

Customer Reviews


Very readable. Excellent story

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  • £7.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Fiction & Literature
  • Published: 08 January 2009
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber
  • Print Length: 400 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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