Cover image for Freddy and Fredericka
Freddy and Fredericka
Helprin, Mark.
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Publication Information:
New York : Penguin Press, [2005]

Physical Description:
553 pages ; 25 cm
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Freddy and Frederickawill ascend the English throne only if they reacquire the American colonies and become noble spirits in an ignoble age. Helprin's latest work, an extraordinarily funny allegory of a most peculiar British royal family, is immensely mocking of contemporary monarchy and yet deeply sympathetic to the individuals caught in its lonely absurdities. Freddy is the Prince of Wales, Fredericka his troublesome wife. An overeducated, bumbling anachronism, Freddy commits one glorious gaffe after another, for which he is massacred daily in the British press. Golden-haired Fredericka, frivolous and empty headed, is particularly fond of wearing spectacular clothing with revealing necklines. Because of the epic public relations disasters caused by these wayward heirs to the throne, they are sent, in a little-known ancient tradition, on a quest to colonize a strange and barbarous land: America. In a tour (de force) of the United States, they are parachuted into the gleaming hell of industrial New Jersey and make their way across the country--riding freight trains, washing dishes, stealing art, gliding down the Mississippi, impersonating dentists, fighting forest fires, and becoming ineluctably enmeshed in the madness of a presidential campaign. Amid the collisions of their royal assumptions with their life on the road, they rise to their full potential, gain the dignity and humility required of great monarchs and good people, and learn to love each other. There is nothing quite like it. Helprin is a lyrical writer whose graceful prose is studded with profound truths and insights. Devoted readers know him for his deeply sad stories that are yet uplifting in their conviction of the goodness and resilience of the human spirit. In what seems like a radical departure of form (as if de Tocqueville had been rewritten by Mark Twain with a deep bow to Harpo Marx), this brilliantly refashioned fairy tale is a magnificently funny farce. But behind the laughter Helprin speaks of leaps of faith and second chances, courage and the primacy of love. He leaves us with the final impression that someone has shouted successfully past the cynicism of our postmodern age in behalf of honor, beauty, nobility, and dreams that come true.

Author Notes

Mark Helprin was born in Manhattan, New York on June 28, 1947. He received degrees from Harvard College and Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and did postgraduate work at the University of Oxford, Princeton University, and Columbia University. He has served in the British Merchant Navy, the Israeli infantry, and the Israeli Air Force.

He is the author of numerous novels including Refiner's Fire, A Soldier of the Great War, Memoir from Antproof Case, Freddy and Fredericka, and In Sunlight and In Shadow. Winter's Tale was adapted into a movie in 2014. His short story collection, Ellis Island and Other Stories, was nominated for a National Book Award in 1981. His other short story collections include A Dove of the East and Other Stories and The Pacific and Other Stories. He also writes children's books including Swan Lake, A City in Winter, and The Veil of Snows. He has received several awards including the National Jewish Book Award, the Prix de Rome, the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award in 2006, and the Salvatori Prize in the American Founding in 2010.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Helprin generates a delectable tension between his impeccable style and unbridled imagination in tales that careen from precise realism to exalted romantic fantasy. His first novel in a decade, following the sumptuous The Pacific and Other Stories 0 BKL O 1 04, is a satirical, picaresque romp that makes shrewd, gleeful fun of the British monarchy and the American presidential campaign. Freddy, the Prince of Wales, is an outdoorsy, erudite, large-eared, and well-meaning man, but he is also hapless, falling repeatedly into ludicrous situations that delight the rapacious press and give fits to his mother the queen and his eccentric father. And Fredericka, Freddy's blond, buxom, camera-loving, seemingly vapid wife, doesn't help. Finally, after a series of vaudevillian mishaps, Freddy and Fredericka are sent incognito to America to redeem themselves. Their mission impossible? Reconquer the colony. After parachuting into the industrial wasteland of New Jersey and stealing a motorcycle from a Hell's Angel, the two intrepid royals, a bit worse for wear, head west, riding freight trains, posing as dentists, and serving as forest fire lookouts until Freddy very nearly secures a cabinet position. Replete with slapstick and hilarious linguistic misunderstandings, this intermittently verbose yet irresistibly mischievous fable draws freely on Don Quixote, Mark Twain, Monty Python, and Jerzy Kosinski's Being There0 , yet is in the end pure Helprin in its narrative agility and celebration of nature's glory and human kindness, courage, and love. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2005 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. Agent, Wendy Weil Agency. Author tour. (July 11) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Helprin's expansive, kitchen-sink fiction (Memoir from Antproof Case, A Soldier of the Great War) is often marked by the occasional madcap flight of fancy, but his latest is a full-out farce and a fable of epic proportions. Freddy, the Prince of Wales, is a stiff intellectual, while his beautiful wife, Princess Fredericka, lives for public adoration. To save the monarchy from an all-consuming media circus, these thinly veiled versions of Prince Charles and Princess Diana are sent on a mission; they're kicked out of the palace and literally dropped from a plane into New Jersey. To avoid the limelight while wandering America, they must live as destitute tramps and find themselves tossed into myriad strange situations. But, remarkably, through their hardscrabble existence they find themselves drawn closer together than ever before. While Helprin often succumbs to cheap-shot lampooning humor, his prose never flags; there is a regal quality to his writing in anything that he undertakes. Still, the novel is a disappointment. It feels more like an empty exercise or a stop-gap for Helprin, lacking the emotional depth of his earlier work. Recommended for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/05.]-Misha Stone, Seattle P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.