Title: Freddy and Fredericka
Publisher: Penguin Press, New York
Publication Date: 2005
Binding: Hard Cover
Book Condition: Very Good +
Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good +
Signed: Signed by Author
Edition: First Edition.
First printing, full number line. Signed by the author on a tipped-in page between the front endpaper and the half-title page: "Mark Helprin." Book is tight and unmarked; slightly cocked; corners sharp, tail of spine bumped. Dust jacket is not price-clipped (original price $27.95); "Signed Copy" sticker on front panel; light edgewear at spine ends, corners. Brodart protected. Size: 64mo - up to 3" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 001724
Synopsis: Freddy and Fredericka will 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.
Review: 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
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