At Freddie's

by Penelope Fitzgerald

Paperback, 2014

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

Boston : Mariner Books, 2014.

Description

"Freddie's" is the familiar name of the Temple Stage School, which supplies London's West End theaters with child actors for everything from Shakespeare to musicals to the Christmas pantomime. Its proprietress, Freddie Wentworth, is a formidable woman of unknown age and murky background who brings anyone she encounters under her spell -- so common an occurrence that it is known as "being Freddied." At her school, we meet dour Pierce, a teacher hopelessly smitten with enchanting Hannah; Jonathan, a child actor of great promise, and his slick rival Mattie; and Joey Blatt, who has wicked plans to rescue Freddie's from insolvency. Up to its surprising conclusion, At Freddie's is thoroughly beguiling."A work of immense poise and dignity, but warmth and humor, too... This is definitely one of the most charming - but strongly textured - novels anyone will read in a long while." Booklist, ALA "Fiztgerald is a deft and nimble writer...[who] displays the English gift for understatement. Her apt phrases are tossed off casually; her humor is flicked at us airily. [At Freddie's] is intriguing to the end." The Washington Post "Mrs. Fitzgerald's special talent is stylistic, a mannered comic dryness that relishes absurdities without dwelling on them too long: she moves at speed, is full of dry observations and inventions, and at her best is very funny." -- Anthony Thwaite Observer… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member mermind
Penelope Fitzgerald is one of my favorite writers. I think this might be my favorite work of hers. I always notice how her wit turns on a dime in a somewhat conversational way, but it is unusual for me to laugh out loud as much as I did in this book. As ever, her humor is a little melancholy though. Her characters are fecklessly energetic and so, lots happens to them in a short amount of time and prose. I think her writing would appeals to someone like me who likes poetry. Every line in the book deserves a double-take. She packs a lot of meaning into small details. I find her characters eccentric, but haunting. I think about them for days afterwards.… (more)
LibraryThing member lucybrown
Penelope Fitzgerald's slender novels are so very brilliant that it is almost possible to miss their perfection. A subtle writer with a true understanding of human foibles and so full of compassion, she rarely misses her mark. At Freddie's, is true to her rare form. Centered around a children's acting school in London during the early 1960s, one meets characters as varied as the incompetent teacher hired to make sure the professional child actors have their state mandated hours of academics to a hard headed business man who is determined to save the school which is perennially broke, though some of his methods are, uh...unorthodox. Take the case of how he attempts to have the school's most gifted child wow the visiting Noel Coward. At the center of this theatric microcosm is Freddie, the aging director of the Temple Stage School. Freddie has been adept at cajoling and charming resources from everyone, but times are changing, and the school seems in peril. Besides the question of the school the reader has a love story and the antics of the small stars with their overweening egos and a sham maturity to amuse and worry her. Plus, there is the fate of the gifted Johnathon to be determined.

Fitzgerald actually spent time at such a school as a teacher in the '60s so she knows her stuff. In fact, one of the amazing things about the writer is the volumes of stuff she does know and her ability to weave it artlessly into her stories. Compare to the bookish, heavily researched novels of A. S. Byatt. Byatt will wow one with the mass of information she imports to her work and obvious meticulous research she pours into the crafting of her novels. But as a reader, one feels the burn. With Fitzgerald, the wow comes later. One never feels overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information, instead later one realizes one knows all sorts so things about turn of the century dining halls at Cambridge, bourgeoisie housekeeping in 17th century Germany, BBC regulations in WWII and educational laws as they pertain to little shits like Matty of At Freddie's.

A true treasure of 20th century English literature.
… (more)
LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
In post-war Britain, the theatrical school offering professional training for child actors targeting the few child roles in Shakespeare or, more often, a run in a pantomime, was practically an anachronism. Television and film did not need children who could act; they just needed cuteness. Nevertheless, Freddie’s (otherwise known as the Temple Stage School) persevered. Led by the irrepressible proprietress, Freddie, the school survived through guile, charity, and outright bluff. A small cohort of teachers and staff took charge of the diminutive student body whose egos and charm more than made up for their age and size. Wise beyond their years, as a steady diet of the bard and panto is bound to make one, the child actors suffer the vicissitudes of life with appropriate tragic or comic excess.

The writing here is almost as light and ephemeral as the world in which the characters live. In essence, a series of comic set pieces punctuate the novel. In most, Freddie herself — ancient beyond years and surprisingly knowledgeable of the criminal underbelly of London’s east end as well as, oddly, obscure Italian dialects — takes centre stage. Seemingly on the edges of these stagey moments life continues to happen: love, death, small victories, and numerous defeats. It can seem inconsequential. So much so that the final moments of the novel may catch you entirely by surprise. As poignant and rich with existential anguish as Joyce’s ‘The Dead’. Breathtaking.

Always highly recommended.
… (more)
LibraryThing member lucybrown
Penelope Fitzgerald's slender novels are so very brilliant that it is almost possible to miss their perfection. A subtle writer with a true understanding of human foibles and so full of compassion, she rarely misses her mark. At Freddie's, is true to her rare form. Centered around a children's acting school in London during the early 1960s, one meets characters as varied as the incompetent teacher hired to make sure the professional child actors have their state mandated hours of academics to a hard headed business man who is determined to save the school which is perennially broke, though some of his methods are, uh...unorthodox. Take the case of how he attempts to have the school's most gifted child wow the visiting Noel Coward. At the center of this theatric microcosm is Freddie, the aging director of the Temple Stage School. Freddie has been adept at cajoling and charming resources from everyone, but times are changing, and the school seems in peril. Besides the question of the school the reader has a love story and the antics of the small stars with their overweening egos and a sham maturity to amuse and worry her. Plus, there is the fate of the gifted Johnathon to be determined.

Fitzgerald actually spent time at such a school as a teacher in the '60s so she knows her stuff. In fact, one of the amazing things about the writer is the volumes of stuff she does know and her ability to weave it artlessly into her stories. Compare to the bookish, heavily researched novels of A. S. Byatt. Byatt will wow one with the mass of information she imports to her work and obvious meticulous research she pours into the crafting of her novels. But as a reader, one feels the burn. With Fitzgerald, the wow comes later. One never feels overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information, instead later one realizes one knows all sorts so things about turn of the century dining halls at Cambridge, bourgeoisie housekeeping in 17th century Germany, BBC regulations in WWII and educational laws as they pertain to little shits like Matty of At Freddie's.

A true treasure of 20th century English literature.
… (more)
LibraryThing member pgchuis
Freddie's is a stage school (strictly stage, no TV or film work) run by the eccentric Freddie. Freddie is a shadowy figure, not motivated by money, but a law unto herself. Other characters include the two teachers she employs: Hannah, who loves the theatre and seems a reasonably competent teacher, and Pierce, who is uninterested in the theatre and doesn't even attempt to teach. Perhaps most memorable are the two child actors, the irrepressible Mattie and the self-contained Jonathan.

This novel is amusing and entertaining, but I find it hard to articulate what exactly it is about and there isn't that much of a plot. Definitely worth reading though.
… (more)
LibraryThing member lucybrown
Penelope Fitzgerald's slender novels are so very brilliant that it is almost possible to miss their perfection. A subtle writer with a true understanding of human foibles and so full of compassion, she rarely misses her mark. At Freddie's, is true to her rare form. Centered around a children's acting school in London during the early 1960s, one meets characters as varied as the incompetent teacher hired to make sure the professional child actors have their state mandated hours of academics to a hard headed business man who is determined to save the school which is perennially broke, though some of his methods are, uh...unorthodox. Take the case of how he attempts to have the school's most gifted child wow the visiting Noel Coward. At the center of this theatric microcosm is Freddie, the aging director of the Temple Stage School. Freddie has been adept at cajoling and charming resources from everyone, but times are changing, and the school seems in peril. Besides the question of the school the reader has a love story and the antics of the small stars with their overweening egos and a sham maturity to amuse and worry her. Plus, there is the fate of the gifted Johnathon to be determined.

Fitzgerald actually spent time at such a school as a teacher in the '60s so she knows her stuff. In fact, one of the amazing things about the writer is the volumes of stuff she does know and her ability to weave it artlessly into her stories. Compare to the bookish, heavily researched novels of A. S. Byatt. Byatt will wow one with the mass of information she imports to her work and obvious meticulous research she pours into the crafting of her novels. But as a reader, one feels the burn. With Fitzgerald, the wow comes later. One never feels overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information, instead later one realizes one knows all sorts so things about turn of the century dining halls at Cambridge, bourgeoisie housekeeping in 17th century Germany, BBC regulations in WWII and educational laws as they pertain to little shits like Matty of At Freddie's.

A true treasure of 20th century English literature.
… (more)

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3354
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