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Freddy and Fredericka Paperback – July 25, 2006
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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
Though it is hard to be a king, it is harder yet to become one," begins this wildly imaginative, adventure-filled, clever—and also overlong and self-indulgent—parody of a future king and queen of England, who are dead ringers for Charles and Diana. Freddy lacks the charisma and royal presence that would qualify him for kingship (in spite of his intelligence and book smarts), so he and his gorgeous but dumb wife, Fredericka, are packed off to a savage land—America—where Freddy must fulfill a mysterious quest in order to achieve his destiny. Helprin (The Pacific and Other Stories, etc.) plays out his zany plot on a grand scale, attempting a satiric critique of modern English and American society. The narrative is loaded with witty philosophical asides about the folly of human nature and of the governments people elect or endure. When the dorky prince and his ditsy wife arrive incognito in America, parachuting naked into New Jersey, they embark on a series of screwball adventures that take them from coast to coast. Most momentously, Freddy finds himself a secret adviser to an egregiously stupid presidential candidate. Rarely does the narrative shimmer with the lyricism that distinguishes Helprin's best work, but readers can have fun with this book, which is probably all Helprin intended.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Freddy and Frederica is a book where he let his humor take off! The story of the British Prince who tries so hard to be king and his wife who starts off being ditzy but soon becomes interestingly intelligent as we get to know her better.Freddie has been given a challenge to develops into better "king" material by being sent on what seems to be an impossible task to bring the USA back under the British rule. What an adventure to look at some of the observations of American culture from Helprins characters viewpoint.
As a running gag, Helprin keeps riffing on Abbott and Costello's famous "Who's on First" routine, and it gets tiresome and predictable after a while. And the author piles on overstuffed descriptive passages by the cartful. It's one case where less would have been more.
Still in all, some parts are howlingly funny, although most of the laughs come at the beginning, and then again toward the end, when F&F meet up with presidential candidate Dewey Knott, and Prince Freddy becomes a speechwriter. (Political speeches are something that Mr. Helprin knows quite a bit about--he was on Bob Dole's staff in 1996.) And, because the author has such a keen moral sense (I get the impression that if you were to advocate anythng remotely like "moral relativism" to him his hair would catch fire), parts of the book are quite profound--the speech Freddy delivers himself to a political convention is a classic take on what America could be if we'd only try.
Give it a whirl.
This is a story about Freddy, the educated and able, but bumbling Prince of Wales, who is constantly finding himself in the most embarassing of predicaments. And Fredericka, his beautiful, but shallow and emptyheaded wife. Their lives are that of ultimate privelege. Attended to by servants, enjoying meals of endless delicacies, living in palaces, and all the expected trappings that royal lives provide. But trapped is also exactly how their lives make them feel. Constantly in the public eye, they are unable to enjoy the simple pleasures of life that an ordinary person can.
In order to prove his worthiness to assume the royal throne, Freddy is required to conquer "the most savage, strange, and unconquerable region of the earth". America. And so their journey begins, by parachuting half naked into the badlands of industrial New Jersey. From there, you are taken along with them for a wild, adventure filled, and sometimes sobering, tour of America. The people they meet, the places they go, and the things they have to do, all in the name of "conquering" this vast land are all interesting. They slowly transform into more complex people (especially Fredericka) with a deeper understanding of things that are meaningful, and enrich us as human beings.
Behind this book's facade of humor, there is a deeper message, in which you just might see a bit of yourself. The underlying message develops as you continue to read and experience the transformation they both make as they overcome one challenging situation after another. They develop into more enlightened and complex people, with a deeper understanding of things that are more fundamentally satisying.
If I were to compare this book to Helprin's other novels, it's very good, but not his best. Having said that, he's raised expectations so high in his previous stories and quality of writing, that compared to other authors and novels, it's still better than most.