Freddy and Fredericka

by Mark Helprin

Hardcover, 2005




New York : Penguin Press, 2005.


Mark Helprin's legions of devoted readers cherish his timeless novels and short stories, which are uplifting in their conviction of the goodness and resilience of the human spirit. Freddy and Fredericka-a brilliantly refashioned fairy tale and a magnificently funny farce - only seems like a radical departure of form, for behind the laughter, Helprin speaks of leaps of faith and second chances, courage and the primacy of love. Helprin's latest work, an extraordinarily funny allegory about a most peculiar British royal family, is immensely mocking of contemporary monarchy and yet deeply sympathetic to the individuals caught in its lonely absurdities.

User reviews

LibraryThing member mmhubbell
the first chapter was amusing, the second one annoying. I left it in Nantucket, unread..
LibraryThing member SweetOldBob
An allegory of Prince Charles and Princess Diana (Frederick and Fredericka). Story got a little too silly, with a ridiculous premise followed by a series of more ridiculous escapades.I invested over 200 pages (it was fun for awhile) before putting it down. Fortunately it was a library book so it
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didn't cost anything except time.
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LibraryThing member deckla
Isn't it terrible that writers with political positions diametrically opposed to your own can nevertheless spin a skillful story? Funny, assured, moving, original. The book is what might be termed "a wild ride."
LibraryThing member juliapequlia
Mark Helprin is one of my favorite writers. No matter what he writes, I love it. This book is no exception, and the writing is intelligent, witty, and creative. A fictional (but strangely familiar...) Prince and Princess of Wales have disappointed their royal family. They are parachuted into New
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Jersey with the task of reconquering AMerica for Britain. A fun read!
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LibraryThing member Brianna_H
This was a good book due to Helprin's obvious intelligence in constructing a fierce and humorous political and class satire. Freddy & Fredericka was laugh out loud funny in many parts. While not one who minds lengthy tomes, this one could have been a tad bit shorter for my liking. By the end of the
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500+ pages I was a bit tired of Freddy & Fredericka, despite their charm and humorous exploits.
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LibraryThing member Jim53
This Helprin novel lacks the magical element that made Winter's Tale so wonderful, but it has some of the same Romantic wistfulness. Freddy, the heir to the British throne, is regarded as by his parents as almost irredeemable. The situations into which he gets himself remind me more of A
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Confederacy of Dunces than anything else I've read: slowly developing ventures into absurdity. His parents decide
to dump Freddy and his bride into the most horrible place they can think of--New Jersey--with the mission of re-conquering the colonies. The tale becomes one of personal growth on both the royals' parts, as they meet the challenge of surviving and thriving in America. The book takes on a Horatio Alger feel as they make the best of their opportunities, coming to appreciate simple things--and each other--as they
make their way west. Helprin's style is relaxed (a bit slow at times, but never for long) and fits the story well. The wordplay gets a bit old by the end of the book, but is entertaining and supports the not-quite-perfect fit of the incognito royals into American society. The political parody is hilarious. The book flits between being a modern novel and a fable, and anages the balance quite nicely. My favorite read so far this year, and the first book to which I've given five stars.
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LibraryThing member delirium
Mark Helprin's books would be better if he would cut out some of the wordy, repetitive sections. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It's about the Prince and Princess of Wales (a thinly disguised Charles and Diana), who, determined as unfit to rule, are sent to America to prove themselves
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by reconquering the colonies. America is in the midst of a political election between the indecisive Dewey Knott (get it?) and the incumbent Self, a demagogue of an all-too-familiar sort. The ineptitude of each opponent is weighed against the humble dedication of the Prince of Wales, bringing to light one of the fallacies of our system--that the best person to lead the country is rarely the one who claws his way to the top. Helprin's poetic capturing of the landscapes of America and the essence of its people are his forte. In the end, the novel is not merely an indictment of our flaws, but a tribute to our uniqueness. A land where everyone is entitled to become royalty has little need of a king
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LibraryThing member TX1955
Very lengthly book. My attention was caught in the first few chapters but as the book went along I just lost interest. I was determined to finish the book and was pleasantly surprised by the last few chapters. If you can hang on long enough it will bring your attention back. It could have been
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several chapters smaller and would have been a better read.
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LibraryThing member hairball
The audiobook of this was totally fricking hysterical. I wouldn't mind reading the actual book, because I'm sure I missed some of the wordplay. (Not that I don't read books, just that I usually don't go back and read books I've listened to, but this one seems particularly worthwhile and I'm fond of
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Helprin, who also gives good live readings, if you can call them that.)
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LibraryThing member NancyStebbins
Parts of this book were truly funny. (I had the feeling of being lost in a Monty Python script early on.) And underneath, there was a touching story of a princess who isn't loved as much as she deserves and a prince who needs to grow into a king. Although I love humor, at times I felt it was
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over-the-top and actually distracted from the real story, which, at the bottom, was more touching than funny. I am glad I read it, however, and would recommend it.
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LibraryThing member erinclark
I really like Mark Helprins writing stye and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. My only complaint is that it took much too long in the beginning for the two main characters to get booted out of the palace and I really became completely sick of all the double word play - I mean how many times can one
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listen to the another version of "Who's on First" (Abbott and Costello's famous play on words). Other than that - it was wonderful.
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LibraryThing member liehtzu
Beautifully written and whimsical view of the British monarchy - will go down a treat with lovers of QE1 (or 2 depending on whether you're a conquered Scot or ardent Englishman). On that note the faintly jingoistic tone, which the author thought to efface through a gentle self-mockery, was the only
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sour note in the process. Always felt that poor Charles got a raw deal too.
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LibraryThing member Gwendydd
Very amusing and often surprisingly poignant. Very British in it's use of language and Wodehouse-like humor. Has some interesting food for thought about the British monarchy and its role in the modern world, and what it means to be a king. Has the age-old theme of the transforming power of love.
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However, sometimes it was so ridiculously outlandish that my suspension of disbelief got skewed, and it has a tendency to ramble. Definitely some brilliant laugh out loud moments, and some poignant moments, but also some okay-is-this-over-yet moments.
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LibraryThing member dahl01
The book was laugh out loud funny for large chunks, and was great in examining the English language. However, it was quite long and dragged at times. Overall I'd recommend it, but maybe a good vacation pick.
LibraryThing member TheCriticalTimes
The premise of the novel is simple and entertaining: what would happen if the prince and princess of Wales were dropped by parachute into the middle of the United States with the task of reclaiming the long lost colonies. All this so they can get a better understanding of how 'normal' human beings
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spend their time so that when the two eventually return to Buckingham Palace they can better rule the United Kingdom. Most of the royal family are mad, the servants are mad, the English population is mad as well as the entire contents of the United States. Thrown into all of this are Freddy and Fredericka, who are the haut cuisine of mad, there is a perfect setup for a wonderful long lasting comedy of errors. At least it could have been. Freddy is the direct successor to the throne of the British Isles and Fredericka is, well I'm sure you can picture her. Think Diana but more superficial and incredibly dumb (or so we think)

After reading Winter's Tale also by Mark Helprin I was expecting a fluid and elegant tale of surprise and mischief. Instead I read a book that is predictable, riddled with stereotypical depictions (the prince gets tarred and feathered) and filled with horrible language usage. I wasn't taken aback by this, I was totally astonished. This wasn't even closely the same quality of work compared to any of his other books. Most surprisingly was the usage and insertion of small snippets of back and forth dialog that at first was interesting but after reading litanies of this same nonsense became very tiresome.

Modern readers, educated by clever plots and character arcs, expect carefully crafted events and situations that for better or worse change the main character's view on the world. I'm avoiding the claim that they should also change because I don't believe in the religion of Disney. Going into this novel you might raise an eyebrow. It isn't unlikely for a descent character to become wise, it is not even unlikely for a villain to repent. But it is very unlikely for an utterly dumb character to become very intelligent all of a sudden. This is exactly what happens here. More confusingly both Freddy and Fredericka exhibit small flashes of brilliance from the very start. My guess is that this was done to soften the blow.

I will definitely continue to read Mark Helprin's novels, if only to figure out if this one book was an anomaly in his oeuvre.
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LibraryThing member love2laf
Certainly not a book for everyone, and not one I thought I would enjoy. Boy, was I wrong about enjoying it! Satirical, slapstick funny, moving on to great depths. This is a book I will keep to enjoy again in years to come.
LibraryThing member ljhliesl
"He pointed quaquaversally with all his fingers." I don't even want to look this up, because the colloquial Italian (or southeastern Sicilian) for "thataway" or "straight ahead" or "keep going" is "qua qua qua." if the character is waggling in fingers in another way than that, I don't want to know.
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(p. 349.)

The author is Usan and the book was printed here. It uses double quotation marks in dialogue, which is only sane (how do you distinguish single quotation marks from apostrophes?) and mostly Usan spellings and the word "gotten," but it doesn't use periods after Mr and Dr and just (373) had "revolutionised." I'm confused
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LibraryThing member sageness
Note: This is the audiobook version of this book, read by Robert Ian MacKenzie, which is a monumental 26 hours long.

I absolutely adore some of Helprin's work. Winter's Tale is one of my very favorite books ever, and some of the stories in The Pacific are magnificent. The trouble with F&F is the
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What I love are Helprin's vivid descriptions, his exquisite language, his cutting commentary on modern culture, and his gorgeous range of vocabulary.

What makes me crazy is the plodding, tiresome pace of the first half of this book. The story doesn't find its pace until just before the midpoint of the novel...and honestly I would've put it down if there hadn't been a lurking desire to know what happened next.

The trouble is the lack of emotional investment in the characters for the first almost-half of the book.

And yet. Helprin is a brilliant OBSERVER of humanity and this book is ultimately a journey from shallow narcissism to a much deeper awareness of what it means to be a good person and what it means to live as a member of a community of people, rich and poor, all over the world.

It's a common theme in his writing, and the prince and princess of Wales conceit is an interesting venue for it. But I wonder who his audience is this time. So much of the intended humor of this book falls flat for me -- not because the idea isn't funny but because the satire drags on for far, far too long. Half a dozen scenes could've been cut entirely and the book made better for it.

The second half of the novel, however, is a solidly good read. And I wonder where Helprin's editor was because a few tweaks and tightenings of the pacing would have made this a fantastic book.

Still, the journey as a whole is worth it. I'd have preferred a paper copy, so I could have read faster than the narrator read and skimmed the bits that dragged. I'm NOT a fan of extended miscommunication-humor, as Helprin is, so those scenes were all a chore for me, but I see that at least some of them were vital to the satire.

The one really lovely thing about the audiobook version is the interview with Helprin at the end, where he tells stories of his youth riding trains and adventuring, and of being in the inner circle of British royalty and famous actors as a child in London. (He grew up half in New York and half in Europe.) Fascinating stuff and I would adore it if he were to write an autobiography. He seems to have lived an amazing life.

Anyway, the second half was very good, the interview rocked, and the first half was a chore. I think that averages out to 3 stars on this scale...or, in other words, one to get from the library rather than to buy, but still one to remember fondly for quite a lot of stunningly beautiful scenes.
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LibraryThing member setnahkt
Reminds me a little of Thomas Pynchon; not quite as weird, perhaps. I’ve read Refiner’s Fire, A Winters Tale, A Soldier of the Great War (best), and Memoirs From An Ant-Proof Case (worst), but the current review is about Freddy and Fredericka. The titular couple are a Prince of Wales with large
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ears, and his ditzy fashion plate princess. Condemned by the press for being goofy in public (prince) and showing too much bosom (princess), they endanger the Monarchy and are ordered to comply with a secret ancient tradition to prove their right to the throne – sent to a distant and barbarous land to conquer it. In this case, parachuted naked into New Jersey.

In the USA they learn how to work for a living – cleaning lavatories, washing dishes, railroad maintenance, and posing as dentists – so they will learn how Ordinary Folks live. Well, I’m all for the virtues of honest toil. And I’m entirely sympathetic when the erstwhile royal couple has to spend a winter in Chicago, having done so myself – many times. It’s done pretty well.

Alas, it needs just a little more editing. Helprin has always liked wordplay and puns, but he lets himself go a little too far – Freddy is having an affair with Lady Phoebe Boillinghotte, and an overly long episode takes place in Moncay House – presumably because Helprin thinks we didn’t get it the first time. Freddy’s always in trouble with the press because he’s misunderstood, and – as one example - there’s a page-long dialog in which a newscaster misinterprets Freddy’s comment “My father (who’s sane)” as “My father, Hussein”. Not very funny the first time, and gets really old quickly (although I confess I always thought “Who’s on First” was overrated, too). Helprin is much better when he does throwaways:

(speaking of Americans):

”Can you imagine them at the Garden Party, dressed in leather, chains, turbans, and street clothes born in the circus, speaking in their atrocious accents, with pierced body parts, tattoos, and rooster hair?”

“We wouldn’t invite the intellectuals.”

The main irony of Freddy and Fredericka is that Helprin wrote it long after the models were divorced and/or dead. A good deal of the book is a paean of praise to the British monarchy (to be fair, a good deal is praise of America, too). Alas, I can’t quite suspend disbelief enough to imagine Prince Charles is actually a misunderstood intellectual who is portrayed as a jerk by the press; I find it more likely that his intellectual accomplishments are exaggerated rather than diminished. Well, it’s kind of a fantasy novel, after all. As for the late Princess Diana, although certainly beautiful, she never gave the impression of being more cerebral than one of the larger citrus fruits. Freddy and Fredericka are more majestic than their prototypes.

Got it for a dollar at a yard sale; well worth it, since it made me laugh out loud a couple of times. If you are going to read Helprin, it’s probably better to start with A Winter’s Tale or A Soldier of the Great War, though.
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LibraryThing member RoseCityReader
Mark Helprin’s rollicking novel, Freddy and Fredericka, follows the adventures of the Prince and Princess of Wales as, plagued by scandals that threaten the continuity of the royal throne, they set off on a quest to recapture the American Colonies. The two – clearly modeled on Charles and Diane
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– learn to love and appreciate each other while they both grow into their crowns.

With a mix of picaresque farce, adventure, political philosophy, and love story, Helprin weaves a captivating tall tale. While the wordplay sometimes degenerates to Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First” level, most of the book is witty and even hilarious. Helprin’s riffs and rants on such diverse subjects as the theater of politics, avant garde art, and whether “bosom” refers to a single object or half of a pair are worth putting up with a couple jokes that get stretched thin.

Also posted on Rose City Reader>.
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LibraryThing member invisiblelizard
Mark Helprin's latest, Freddy and Fredericka, was one double entendre (DE) after another, a veritable Who's On First homage of epic proportions. Did this make it a bad book? Not at all. Quite the opposite - well written and hilariously funny, but it left me wondering if there was more beneath the
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surface of all the slap-stick.

As I tend to do (when I think about books), let me address my three critical points: story, writing and voice. Then I'll try to figure out the point.

The story: Very entertaining. Freddy and Fredericka (F&F) embark on a odyssey of America, covering the land from coast to coast. En route, they discover themselves. They grow. They mature. Freddy, the focal point of the story, seems to grow a bit less, and in the end, he is still shackled with his crippling inability to recognize double meanings in words (those pesky DE's), but he had less distance to go from the onset. Fredericka, who started off as a flashy, feckless, trophy princess, ripened by leaps and bounds. They were set on this quest because they were deemed not ready, in the eyes of those who know, to rule England. In the end, they returned wiser and calm, at peace with themselves in whatever position they inherit. Oh, and madly in love.

The writing: Helprin's writing style is beautiful. (For the most part.) His word choice is superb, nary a wasted sentence, each paragraph serving a purpose that drives the story forward. (Usually.) Sometimes he'd string together a sentence that moved me to wish I had a highlighter. (And sometimes he'd drive me crazy.) My waffling here is due to the onslaught of farcical DE dialogue. After a while, it got quite redundant. Okay, we get it. Freddy can be a bit of a loon sometimes. Yet, still, Helprin pushed on. After about three-quarters of the book (and well into the introduction of the Dewey Knott character, who, you can see, would cause problems), with Helprin still playing at the same old trick, I began to wonder if there was a method to his madness. More on this in a minute.

The voice: Simple. Elegant. Never obtrusive (except where noted above). The omniscient narrator was sympathetic yet honest, non-withholding, revealing, so much so that at the end, when the narrator tells us that he was sympathetic, honest, non-withholding and revealing, we think to ourselves, yeah, obviously. The best thing I can say about the voice is that it was consistent throughout and somehow elevated the reader to a royal level, such that you felt you existed with F&F, in their world, as they visited ours.

The point: Here's where I step into uncharted territory. The DE dialog was so over-used that I felt it must have a purpose. A writer as skilled at crafting a novel as Helprin wouldn't fall prey to such an obvious gimmick. My theory is that he uses this as a metaphor for his characters, F&F themselves, who are cursed with a similar fate: that they are seen in one light and the average viewer never notices another layer, another definition. They are royals, yes, and most people stop with that single interpretation. Likewise, F&F, prior to their adventure, viewed life according to the same rules, but a year trekking across America showed them to open their eyes to other possibilities.

This is one of those great novels that can be read on two levels (ah-hah!): one, just for fun, just for a lark, an adventure with some funny bits; or two, a study in character growth, in duality, and in the possibilities of the other side of the coin.

Invisible Lizard's Unusual Oranges
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LibraryThing member PallanDavid
Freddy and Fredericka is a very strange book! It is a fictional memoir of a fictional Prince of Wales and his Princess. It is very silly and sometimes pure nonsense. It follows the path of maturity of Freddy from presumptive future King of England to actual King of England. He and his wife,
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Fredericka through a year in which they are sent to America and have to fend for themselves incognito.
It is also a love story and bitter sweet.
Between the nonsense is prose describing the ridiculousness of politics, the hearts of people, the beauty of life and living, and the understanding of destiny...
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