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Freddy and Fredericka Hardcover – Jul 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 553 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press (July 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594200548
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594200540
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16.5 x 4.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,490,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Red Rock Bookworm TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 31 Aug 2012
Format: Paperback
Could Mark Helprin have been channeling Jerzy Kosinski when he sat down to write Freddy and Fredericka? It would seem so, since Freddy begins as a character who could easily have been a distant cousin of Kosinski's Chauncey Gardiner (Chance the Gardner) in his novel BEING THERE. But unlike Kosinskis Gardiner, whose straightforward responses to popular concerns are praised as visionary despite no one being able to comprehend or ascertain what he is saying, Freddy and his Frederika is more the literary equivalent of British television shows such as Monty Python, Fawlty Towers and Keeping up Appearances. Visualize if you will a young John Cleese as Freddy and an even younger Patricia Routledge as Frederika.

While BEING THERE, a literary look at the unreality of America's media culture was satire in its purest form, F & F vacillates between out and out slapstick and a Saturday matinee melodrama and its 500+ pages ultimately leave the reader screaming, "It's too much already"! Obviously based upon the see-saw lives of Prince Charles and Princess Di (before her untimely death) this tale of the Prince and Princes of Wales being secretly dispatched to infiltrate and re-claim the U.S. for the U.K. is liberally peppered with allegory and verbal ambiguity and while the comedy begins well it slowly loses it's satirical edge and is sinks to the realm of vaudevillian shtick.

While Helprin has been praised for his storytelling ability (and perhaps some of his other books are a better showcase for his talent) it is this reader's humble opinion that this look at what Shaw called "two countries separated by a common language" is a classic example of an observation made by another writer called William Shakespeare who observed that you can give people "TO MUCH OF A GOOD THING".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jason Mills VINE VOICE on 31 Oct 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The unlikely premise of this glorious romp is that the Prince and Princess of Wales are behaving so fecklessly as royals that they are parachuted without resources into the USA, to undergo trial by fire and retake the colonies for the crown! The pair begin as alternate versions, caricatures, of Charles and Diana, but their journey transfigures them into bigger, bolder and deeper characters. They follow a picaresque series of increasingly funny adventures as they cross the continent, finding new resilience, reviving their love and piloting a buffoon towards the presidency.

It is, in the book's own words, "a love song to this country" (ie. the US), and though it revels in ridiculing the royals, it is equally a hymn to their sense of duty, and also a heartfelt and often moving romance, in which our heroes fall in love not only with each other but with life itself. All this is accomplished in Helprin's characteristically luminous prose, enough to make aspiring writers gnaw off their own arm in envy.

But most of all it is a generous, clear-sighted, big-hearted comedy. Helprin's humour is shamelessly contrived: for instance, he is not above naming Fredericka's dog "Pha Kew", merely to engineer a scene in which Freddy chases it through a wedding party, repeatedly shouting its name; a gag from which Helprin is still getting mileage two chapters later. Page after page of riotous dialogue flows again and again from the flimsiest of misunderstandings; and the reader does not merely forgive these transparent devices, but wills them along, eager for the next.

It is not quite, to my mind, Helprin's best book (look to "Winter's Tale" or "A Soldier Of The Great War"), but it is certainly his funniest. Since it frequently reduced this reviewer to dizzy fits of laughter and left him gasping for breath, it fully merits its 5 stars.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By S. Hartwell on 7 May 2009
Format: Paperback
This book will no doubt seem hilarious to its USAnian readers with its parodies of the British Royal Family. As a Brit, the flaws and the author's lack of understanding of the Monarchy and of the British Government are far more evident.

Prince of Wales Freddy as a bumbling clod mired in ancient illogical traditions while his younger wife is an airhead. Queen Philippa is in danger of being upstaged by Fredericka and knows it. The House of Commons has just heard a damning tape about Fredericka's bosoms while the gutter press is airbrushing photographs to reinforce Freddy's image as an idiot while worshipping Fredericka as a living saint.

In comes an incarnation of Merlin to send the royal pair off to America to live as commoners and get a dose of reality. Really this is little more than a vehicle for worshipping the USA and its traditions.

Despite the amusing names (Lady Boylingehotte, Lord Faintingchair etc) it's unsubtle at best and sometimes crass. I'm a Brit and not a fan of the monarchy, but this is little more than a vehicle for USA-worship. Helprin may have done some research into the mechanisms of British politics, but he's ridiculing something he doesn't really understand and this book can only really appeal to others with the same superficial understanding.

If you're USAnian you'll probably love it. If you're a Brit, it will just jar and irritate.
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