I had to read "Headlong" for a University course and I doubt that I would have picked it up otherwise. Now I am glad I did, as "Headlong" turned out to be an interesting, original and thrilling story.
Art has always played an important part in my life. It was my favourite subject in school, so no wonder I chose it was my main subject later on. Sadly, we never really learnt much about art history and theory, which I would have liked a lot, as this is an interesting topic that does not have to be boring or lame.
Michael Frayn has used art as the most general topic in his novel. The protagonist Martin and his wife Kate are both in the art business and trying to write a book each, but Martin gets distracted easily. When he sees a painting while in their cottage in the country, he is sure he has found the most important piece of art ever. Martin believes it to be the 6th missing painting in Bruegel's "Four Seasons" series.
The aspect I was asked to look out during reading the novel is the connection of fact and fiction, of knowledge and imagination. All the paintings and painters mentioned, from various Bruegels to Giordano, are real. Only the most important picture for Martin, the story and the novel is non-existant: the Merrymakers, as it is called. I probably have to look more into the matter, to find out how much there really is to know about the missing painting from Bruegel's series, but for the story, it does not matter much. It is irrelevant weather the painting that has such an impact on Martin exist. What matters is what the picture does to Martin, how it soon dictates his life, his family, his thinking. It changes everything and not only affects Martin, but his wife and his daughter as well as the painting's owner Tony and his wife Laura. Martin loses himself in the process of trying to own the painting and forgets everything and everyone around him.
Frayn paints a picture of his own in writing this story. On it can be seen love and loss, greed and goodness, fault and forgiveness. It shows the effect of obsession and fate and even if it sometimes puts to much emphasis on the details that could have been left out, it is a remarkably story with art topics involved in every aspect.