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3.46 out of 53.46 out of 53.46 out of 53.46 out of 53.46 out of 5 3.46 (74 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Michael Frayn Narrator: Frederick Davidson Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2015 ISBN: 9781504628433
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An unlikely con man wagers wife, wealth, and sanity in pursuit of one of art’s elusive old masters.

Martin Clay, an easily distracted philosopher, and his scrupulous art-historian wife are invited to dinner by a boorish local landowner to assess the value of three dusty paintings moldering in the freezing breakfast room. But blocking the soot from the chimney is nothing less, Martin believes, than one of the world’s lost treasures, camouflaged by misattribution and the grime of centuries. Thus begins a wild trail of lies and concealments, soaring hopes and sudden panics, as Martin embarks on an obsessive quest to prove his hunch, separate the painting from its owner, and resolve one of the great mysteries of European art.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Rueful and amusing…Frayn is that rare writer who succeeds as both a novelist and a dramatist.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Finely wrought and highly comical…a perfect introduction to a writer who likes to pull the rug out from under your feet while offering you the most seductive of smiles.”

    Seattle Times

  • “Delightful...deadpan hilarious and wonderfully written…as effective a work of historical reconstruction as it is a comedy.”

    Philadelphia Inquirer

  • “Exceedingly funny, both in event and in intellectual high jinx.”

    Boston Sunday Globe

  • Headlong offers an enthralling and refreshingly grown-up take on the alarming speed with which our morals shift to accommodate our desires, and on the lofty and low ways in which the great art of the past continues to affect us.”

    Elle

  • “Art historians will rejoice over the subject matter and the intricate descriptions of the paintings and their provenance…[Davidson’s] vocal changes bring forth believable characters with pleasing sounds.”

    AudioFile

  • “Davidson’s decidedly British accent helps bring the story alive.”

    Booklist

  • A 1999 Man Booker Prize Finalist

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Richard | 2/7/2014

    " A tense plot is inextricably bound up with scholarly research. I'm yet to be disappointed by Michael Frayn's ability to create compelling narratives from diverse subject matter. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dee | 2/6/2014

    " A farcical novel about art theft. I read it for a book group and did not like it as much as I had hoped I would. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Peter Herrmann | 2/6/2014

    " Superb, albeit a challenge. The protagonist is a philosopher - who presumably should know about ethics - doing some very unethical things. His lies and subterfuges lead to some suspenseful (almost too much so) scenes, as well as some very comical ones: his guilt and inexperience in dishonesty causes him to misread situation after situation. He is way out of his depth in self-transformation from academic to criminal. Also, much interesting history: 16th Century politics and art. The present-day characters, while not the kinds of people most of us ordinarily run into, come across as real (both in natural gifts and flaws). A challenge to read because of the slowness and psychological subtleties. As with all good stories, keeps you (or at least me) reading to find out what will happen. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jack | 1/31/2014

    " An amazingly inventive tale - art history, thriller, and medieval life, all wound into one delightful story. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Janice | 1/30/2014

    " I'm becoming bogged-down in the art history section of the book. I also can't help wondering why the main character didn't just do the right thing and make an offer on the painting--or at least be halfway honest about it. He goes to such great lengths after a single glimpse at the painting in question. Obsessive, much? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Beth Lewis | 1/29/2014

    " 4.5 stars... I loved Headlong. The flighty main character, his poor suffering wife, his burbling baby, the tax evading neighbor and the neighbor's giggling wife, made their less than idyllic country life a counterpoint to the 15th century Netherlands where Bruegel's paintings were meticulously created. The references to Bruegel's paintings were very interesting and I really enjoyed the facts that peppered this piece of fiction.... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bradford | 1/25/2014

    " An excellent book about a guy frantically researching in a bunch of books... Who knew that was fun? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alice | 1/15/2014

    " Came highly recommended. THis book is a gentle spoof on the British class differences- the has- beens vs. the wannabes,- on art history, and on art collecting and fraud. Very British humor. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Robert | 1/14/2014

    " Hilarious and smart "farce" of academic art history, mystery thriller, and love triangle. Frayn at his best. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carol Hislop | 1/7/2014

    " One of my favourite books-I read it a long time ago but I keep thinking about it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kaila | 1/1/2014

    " A fantastic read for art lovers. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ariela | 12/20/2013

    " Would you like to learn about the life and times of Pieter Bruegel the Elder while cringing painfully the whole way through? This might be your sort of book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Catherine Hurst | 12/20/2013

    " I found this book very readable and the mystery within to be fast-paced and page-turning. And there were many very funny parts where I truly laughed outloud. (I kept imagining Hugh Grant making the observations of the narrator, and that made it even more amusing for me!) I liked the combination of the present discovery of the art mystery of the past that was done so well in Josephine Tey's "The Daughter of Time." It's plausible to believe that the narrator, who has studied Dutch philosophy, art, and history, and his wife, an art historian, both with finely honed academic research skills, might certainly make an art discovery that others have missed. But there was just too much 16th century history and politics--way more, I think, than was needed to tell the story. And this detracted from the interest of the book for me. If I'm reading a novel, I'm looking for novel qualities, not treatises on 16h century Netherlands that go on and for pages. Fifty pages less of the Netherlands, and it would have been a 4-star read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Victoria (Eve's Alexandria) | 12/14/2013

    " Not the book I had expected. Very much a play of two halves, with an art theft farce in one half and a discourse on Bruegel for the other. I enjoyed both, but sadly not always together. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Julie | 12/8/2013

    " It was an ok book. Interesting but I really wish the ending were different. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Caroline Owens | 11/29/2013

    " I wanted to give this book a higher rating b/c the writing was truly clever and the author is clearly intelligent and interesting, but his plotline is boring and I plain old did not like the ending. So there. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 cristol | 11/22/2013

    " Interesting story, with Brueghel as the backdrop, but a disappointing ending. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jennifer Remnet | 11/15/2013

    " I couldn't get into this book at all! Read several chapters, then skimmed through the rest. Maybe it was over my head... couldn't get into the whole art/philosophy stuff. Would not recommend. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda | 11/7/2013

    " Kinda humorous, kinda enlightening, kinda ironic - isn't it?! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah | 11/7/2013

    " Enjoyed the Bruegel mystery tour very much, and the first third of the book while it was setting the scene. But for me the farce of the last third of the book didn't really succeed and I did skip over quite a bit of the last few chapters, wanting to hear the plot but not all the detail. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Annalisa | 10/24/2013

    " A fun, gripping tale. Nothing momentous, but not disappointing either. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janet Keeten | 10/20/2013

    " Slow start, but that is probably me. I learned a lot about the Netherlands, history and art. Reminded me of Ethan Frome. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Maya | 10/13/2013

    " This book is very clever. This man, as far as a I can recall, is having a midlife crisis that takes an interesting form, one which leads to the reader learning a lot about the heady world of visual art. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Barbara G | 10/12/2013

    " A bit of art history mixed with humor. Fun read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jessica | 10/12/2013

    " Eh. In the end it reminded me too much of the art history lessons that the Da Vinci Code was made out of (granted, these were better and more well-written, but still). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Frank | 9/19/2013

    " Just a quirky little book about a goofy professor of art history who thinks he finds a great, lost painting in a country house in England. Michael Frayn is very funny and very convincing about the art (because his hero is learning it all over the course of the book). A pleasant entertainment. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Annalisa | 9/16/2013

    " A fun, gripping tale. Nothing momentous, but not disappointing either. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Richard | 4/16/2013

    " A tense plot is inextricably bound up with scholarly research. I'm yet to be disappointed by Michael Frayn's ability to create compelling narratives from diverse subject matter. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathy | 4/7/2013

    " Fun story of a philosophy academic's dilemna and thought process when he believes he's discovered a European art masterpiece. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 John | 2/24/2013

    " Interesting art history stuff, but frustratingly mixed with farce. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carol Hislop | 2/21/2013

    " One of my favourite books-I read it a long time ago but I keep thinking about it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Orin | 12/10/2012

    " An appreciation of art history might be a prerequisite. Much fun. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bradford | 11/10/2012

    " An excellent book about a guy frantically researching in a bunch of books... Who knew that was fun? "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rosemarie | 10/14/2012

    " What is worth more? A human life or a priceless work of art? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Victoria (Eve's Alexandria) | 10/13/2012

    " Not the book I had expected. Very much a play of two halves, with an art theft farce in one half and a discourse on Bruegel for the other. I enjoyed both, but sadly not always together. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jeni | 9/24/2012

    " If you like art in historical context, there are things to like here. I could have done without some of the extramarital nonsense though... Don't read unless you REALLY want to hear about the Netherlands of the 17th century... "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Dasha | 9/5/2012

    " Not nearly as good as "Spies," while I found the book sufficiently amusing to read it all the way through, it was somewhat navel gazing. The narrator/ main character is on the brink of being so thoroughly unlikable, that I didn't really feel bad for him as he was heading toward disaster. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lila | 8/9/2012

    " I enjoyed this book, especially because of all the detail about one of my favorite artists, Bruegel. It was a library discard volume left on a counter for sharing books at our local mom and pop store. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 E. | 8/7/2012

    " It is an art history lesson in the guise of a detective story. I cannot imagine anyone enjoying the book without a background in art history and a book about Pieter Bruegel the Elder on hand. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dave Reynolds | 6/4/2012

    " Need to read this again - I don't often re-read things but this one, definitely. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Angelina | 5/5/2012

    " This book was a joy from start to finish. It is a sign of good writing when you can be so invested in characters who can infuriate us so much. Frayn's characters are layered and carry a very real, natural quality. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeff | 4/11/2012

    " One of my favorite books of all time. I mean it! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 HiphopQuyn | 3/28/2012

    " this is a great 'art history thriller' about an amateur who believes he's discovered a lost breugel and will do anything to get his hands on it. it's heavy on the history, and very entertaining. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 AnneKristine Norris | 3/27/2012

    " The main character was a complete and utter idiot. Everything worked out for him exactly as it should. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Amanda | 3/6/2012

    " In all fairness, I couldn't actually finish reading this book. Way too much talk about art without being interesting. Maybe I just don't like art. Could that be it? Or maybe I don't like history. Now, that's more likely... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rosemarie | 12/16/2011

    " What is worth more? A human life or a priceless work of art? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 David | 11/22/2011

    " A beautifully tale of male obsession and female resilience told with biting humour and not a little irony. Oh and you learn a lot about Netherlandish art of the mid 16th century to boot. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Patrick Joyce | 10/21/2011

    " Satisfyingly baroque in its art history mystery, which successfully (if only barely) trumps the dangerously-close-to-off-putting pathos of its scholarly protagonist. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Roddy Murray | 10/20/2011

    " This is a good book but there is extreme detail about art history which made the book more of a task to read than perhaps necessary. Not for the light reader but an interesting combination of fiction, art history and dutch history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura | 10/1/2011

    " Reads well with nice pace. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kristi | 9/22/2011

    " I did learn a lot about the artist Bruegel while reading this book, but other than that I thought it was very boring. I liked the female character in this book. But the main character, the husband, I thought was despicable. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ian | 8/3/2011

    " Not as funny as I expected considering the author, but good in a quirky way. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jean | 7/30/2011

    " Perhaps a bit more than you'll want to know about Brueghel, but great characters, witty scenes and dialogue, unexpected twists. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janet | 6/19/2011

    " Slow start, but that is probably me. I learned a lot about the Netherlands, history and art. Reminded me of Ethan Frome. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jason | 5/17/2011

    " Hilarious. Also set in Dorset, where I live, and can vouch for the characters: antique dealers and their wiles are flayed alive here. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jennifer | 3/28/2011

    " hated this book. could not force myself to read after 100 pages (my rule for giving a book a chance). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cathy | 2/1/2011

    " I loved this book! It was well written, funny, a good mystery and an European art history lesson all in one. This book was a lucky find for me as I believe I picked it up at a book sale for $.25. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jennifer | 1/15/2011

    " I couldn't get into this book at all! Read several chapters, then skimmed through the rest. Maybe it was over my head... couldn't get into the whole art/philosophy stuff. Would not recommend. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lila | 12/21/2010

    " I enjoyed this book, especially because of all the detail about one of my favorite artists, Bruegel. It was a library discard volume left on a counter for sharing books at our local mom and pop store. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Julie | 9/13/2010

    " It was an ok book. Interesting but I really wish the ending were different. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mark | 8/21/2010

    " Most likely the funniest book ever written with classic Dutch painting as one of it's central themes... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alice | 6/30/2010

    " Came highly recommended. THis book is a gentle spoof on the British class differences- the has- beens vs. the wannabes,- on art history, and on art collecting and fraud. Very British humor. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Patrick | 6/30/2010

    " Satisfyingly baroque in its art history mystery, which successfully (if only barely) trumps the dangerously-close-to-off-putting pathos of its scholarly protagonist. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Praevaricator | 6/30/2010

    " Satisfyingly baroque in its art history mystery, which successfully (if only barely) trumps the dangerously-close-to-off-putting pathos of its scholarly protagonist. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 David (Dafydd) | 6/23/2010

    " A beautifully tale of male obsession and female resilience told with biting humour and not a little irony. Oh and you learn a lot about Netherlandish art of the mid 16th century to boot. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Paul | 6/16/2010

    " Hugely entertaining novel from playwright and novelist Frayn. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marianne | 5/9/2010

    " It got a wee bit silly towards the end but the art history stuff was interesting! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Barbara | 2/14/2010

    " A bit of art history mixed with humor. Fun read. "

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About the Author
Author Michael Frayn

Michael Frayn is the author of thirteen plays, including the classic comedy Noises Off, and Copenhagen, which was named Play of the Year by the Evening Standard and won the Drama Critics Circle award. Frayn has also written seven novels and three screenplays, as well as being a journalist, documentary filmmaker, and translator of Chekhov. Headlong is his first novel to appear in the United States since 1993. He lives in London.

About the Narrator

Frederick Davidson (1932–2005), also known as David Case, was one of the most prolific readers in the audiobook industry, recording more than eight hundred audiobooks in his lifetime, including over two hundred for Blackstone Audio. Born in London, he trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and performed for many years in radio plays for the British Broadcasting Company before coming to America in 1976. He received AudioFile’s Golden Voice Award and numerous Earphones Awards and was nominated for a Grammy for his readings.