Mark Helprin's picaresque romp, Freddy and Fredericka
, begins with a secret rite on a Scottish hillside: the Prince of Wales, poised in his crisp field uniform, urges a falcon named Craig-Vyvyan to fly from his arm. The latest in a line of royal falcons with the ability to discern true kings and queens, Craig-Vyvyan sniffs the air, sizes up the bewildered heir to the throne, and refuses to budge. The falcon knows he isn't king-material, and so does the falconer, and so, in his heart of heart's, does the Prince of Wales. From this promising opening, Helprin spins a tale that ricochets in tone between the silliness of The Naked Gun
movies and the gravity of a Wesleyan sermon. To prove their worth and prepare them to rule, the Prince and Princess of Wales--loose caricatures of Charles and Diana--are parachuted naked into New Jersey by night and ordered to reconquer America for Britain.
Helprin's theme is nobility--acquired, as well as innate. He puts the spoiled but well-meaning Prince and Princess through a series of farcical trials before they reach the startling conclusion that clean living, hard work, and humility will bring out the best in them. The "funny" parts of Freddy and Fredericka would have benefited from vigorous pruning--the book itself is too long--but there are stirring passages on love and duty sprinkled among the gags and loopy names, and some spectacular landscape descriptions--covert portraits of the force that drives the green fuse through the flower and gives the House of Windsor its curious destiny. --Regina Marler
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Veteran English actor Mackenzie lends a patrician air to this recording of Helprin's first novel in a decade, a wild and keenly imagined but overstuffed modern fairy tale of royals rampant. Mackenzie's precise headmaster British accent is fitting for a story about the trials of the prince and princess of Wales as they are thrust out of their posh existence and left to make their way incognito across America on a quest that is as mysterious as it is imperative. Mackenzie captures the main characters perfectly: the dignified solemnity of Prince Freddy and the self-assured yet often misguided assertions of his beautiful wife, Fredericka. Mackenzie proves just as adept in capturing the gravity of the story's opening and closing scenes as he does delivering its numerous farcical elements. While Helprin's often barbed humor is generally amusing, his wordplay can become tiresome, particularly in the scenes featuring a dog named "Fah Kew" or an American presidential candidate named "Dewey Knott." Listeners may feel that several episodes were unnecessary to Helprin's clever premise, but Mackenzie's zestful performance makes it a largely enjoyable romp.
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