Books by Michael Frayn

Michael Frayn is the author of ten novels, including the bestselling Headlong, a New York Times Editor’s Choice selection and a Booker Prize finalist, and Spies, which won Britain’s Whitbread Fiction Award. He has written fourteen plays, among them Noises

Released: Feb. 24, 2015

"For lovers of classic farce, Monty Python and the wildly diverse British sense of humor."
Tony Award-winning playwright and novelist Frayn (Skios, 2012, etc.) busts out a delectably droll collection of theatrical diversions.Read full book review >
SKIOS by Michael Frayn
Released: June 19, 2012

"From this extraordinarily thin plot device of mixed and mistaken identities Frayn spins out a gauzy tale that exhibits more tedium than hilarity."
Frayn the farceur returns here, but the humor is so airy that at times it disappears altogether. Read full book review >
MY FATHER'S FORTUNE by Michael Frayn
Released: March 1, 2011

"A consistently understated, mostly engrossing read."
A British novelist and playwright's memoir about growing up with a near-deaf, roofing-salesman father. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 6, 2007

"An inviting introduction to modern cosmology and philosophy with no prerequisites other than the willingness to entertain counterfactuals, imponderables and leaps of faith. Nicely done."
A vade mecum for head-scratchers by the multifaceted Frayn (The Copenhagen Papers, 2001, etc.), whose philosophical concerns are notably many and well attested in his body of work. Read full book review >
SPIES by Michael Frayn
Released: April 3, 2002

"A bit reminiscent of L.P. Hartley's modern classic The Go-Between but, still, an essentially original and very affecting tale."
Bitter memories of the home front during WWII resurface in this muted yet moving tenth novel from popular British author Frayn (The Copenhagen Papers, 2001, etc.) and playwright (Noises Off, etc.). Read full book review >
Released: May 2, 2001

"Whatever the reality, it adds up to another good yarn from Frayn."
An entertaining, if inconclusive, game of historical cat-and-mouse. Read full book review >
HEAD-LONG by Michael Frayn
Released: Sept. 2, 1999

A formidably learned, unfortunately ponderous comic romp from the British playwright (whose Noises Off is a contemporary classic) and novelist (Now You Know, 1993, etc.). Narrator and antihero Martin Clay is a professor of philosophy and amateur art buff, happily married to Julia (herself an art historian), and the doting father of baby daughter Tilda. When the three go on extended holiday in the English countryside, and accept a dinner invitation from insufferably hearty local landowner Tony Churt, Martin's bland life is jolted into concupiscent confusion—for, stowed ingloriously away near some paintings whose value he is invited to judge is the soot-covered find that Martin instantly recognizes as a missing masterpiece executed by 16th-century painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Concealing his excitement, Martin sacrifices his vacation (also further deserting the academic book he's supposedly writing), journeying back and forth to London to research the Dutch master's life and times—meanwhile refining the intricate scam by which he'll spirit away the priceless work that, he assures himself, the oafish Churt cannot possibly appreciate. Following some exhaustively regurgitated arcana, Frayn's plot finally kicks into gear, as Martin's master plan suffers repeated modifications, owing to the canny Julia's suspicions, the seductive mendacity of Tony's young wife Laura, the appearance of "another Churt" (Tony's scapegrace younger brother), and several related accidents and misunderstandings. It's all too little, too late. This otherwise admirably engineered story falls apart because Frayn doesn't seem to have decided whether he's writing a "headlong" intellectual farce, or a complex homage to a great artist (there's an impressive enormity of both detail and perceptive speculation about Bruegel's sensibility and oeuvre) whose lively paintings are subtly encoded, containing "hidden allusions to persecution" practiced by the Spanish rulers of Bruegel's Netherlands. Art historians will understandably love it. Other readers may find it rather more oppressively educational than entertaining. (First printing of 50,000; author tour) Read full book review >
NOW YOU KNOW by Michael Frayn
Released: Feb. 1, 1993

What happens when an improbable love affair brings a freedom-of- information lobby under the microscope itself: another melancholy farce by the gifted British playwright (Noises Off, Benefactors) and novelist (The Trick of It, 1990; A Landing on the Sun, 1992). The London office of OPEN, once you step over the two bag-ladies to get inside, is rife with its own petty secrets: why the files on Jacqui's desk have been scattered all over the floor; what kind of photos are in those magazines Kevin's hiding in Kent's satchel; what everybody thinks of Shireen's IQ; and who knows just what about whose private life. But the OPEN staff succeeds in keeping their secrets from each other, more or less, until Roy's budding romance with Hilary Wood, a civil servant of the sort OPEN normally feasts on, brings her to the attention of Terry Little, the grand old man of OPEN. Finding Hilary ``like a helping of rather brainy mashed potatoes,'' Terry naturally brings her back to the office for a quick tumble, only to find within a few days that: (1) she's sent him an unsought grail—a copy of the hush-hush records on the death of a Pakistani troublemaker in police custody, (2) she's resigned her post at Whitehall over the leak, and (3) she'll be coming to work for OPEN, where, in the course of one mad morning when she realizes that shamelessly charming Terry's been seeing both her and Jacqui on a rigorously non-overlapping schedule, (4) she'll be flinging wide the shutters of OPEN to the world, or at least to its manic exposers themselves. As intricately worked out as a Joe Orton play, though the amusingly scheming cast remains obstinately lovable. Frayn seems bent on a single-handed crusade to restore plotting to a central place in the British novel. Read full book review >
A LANDING ON THE SUN by Michael Frayn
Released: Feb. 1, 1992

Frayn, noted for his waggish plays (Noises Off, Benefactors) as well as his novel, The Trick of It (1990), turns a British civil servant's investigation into an unexplained 15-year-old death into a winsome, whimsical comedy. Middle-aged nonentity Brian Jessel is assigned to look discreetly—and forestall the tabloid journalists' recurring interest- -into the 1974 death of equally minor government minion Stephen Summerchild, who evidently fell from an Admiralty window onto M06D property, becoming an everlasting mystery. Did Summerchild fall accidentally, jump, or get pushed? And why should his blameless life have ended so irregularly—contact, perhaps, with foreign powers? Tracking down and sifting through the reports Summerchild dutifully filed during the last months of his life, Jessel follows his footsteps as his assignment—a study of contemporary ``quality of life''—takes him to Elizabeth Serafin (an austere Oxford philosophy don who demonstrates to him Socratically that happiness is necessarily a subjective concept) and through the belly of dialectic to an unlikely and desperate love affair with Dr. Serafin, documented with amusing and maddening ellipses on a series of typed transcripts and audiotapes. All the while, Jessel, whose small son barely moors him in his present life, finds himself dissolving into Summerchild, wondering why Millie Summerchild, whom Jessel had known for years from an amateur orchestra, had dropped out of sight a week before her father's death, and what Dr. Serafin's three sons are up to that's driven their mother to such grief. Whimsically charming to the end, but grave and sweetly sad as well—altogether a very British affair. Read full book review >