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Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin

Freddy and Fredericka

by Mark Helprin

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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
A fantastic (and dense) study of "family values" and the public programs aimed at it in Victorian England. Look through my status updates for examples!

My favorite quotes:
"we persist in eulogizing the way we never were...our present family 'crisis' is not so much about the need for thicker doors and higher walls as about constructing a different sort of community--one in which the private and public spheres are treated as symbiotic rather than antagonistic."

"Although it is convenient to locate social salvation in a bygone era of inviolate family values, this era defies discovery...at no time was the English home seen as sufficient unto itself."

"Those weary of the politics of panic may find some solace in recalling that social disintegration, like beauty, remains very much in the eye of the beholder." ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
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 length.

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. ( )
  sageness | Feb 7, 2014 |
I'm pretty sure that this is an objectively good book that just didn't resonate for me. I love the descriptiveness of Helprin's prose and the way he has of evoking an undercurrent of serene justice beneath even the most mundane events.

That being said, it's largely a political farce / satire, which places it pretty squarely in the category of Not Really My Thing. And if you're like me and find it extremely unpleasant to read about people committing social faux pas and embarrassing themselves in front of large audiences, avoid this book, because it happens pretty much constantly. ( )
  wirehead | Jul 9, 2013 |
"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. (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 ( )
  ljhliesl | May 21, 2013 |
It took me a while to get into this, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. ( )
  JG_IntrovertedReader | Apr 3, 2013 |
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As penance for departure from the royal ideal and instruction therein, Frederick and Fredericka, the Prince and Princess of Wales, are forced to travel through America penniless and incognito, with the object of reacquiring the deviant former colonies for the British Crown.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143037250, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:59 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Ridiculed by the British press, Prince of Wales Freddy and his wife, the frivolous Fredericka, are sent to colonize the barbaric land of America, during which they engage in a freight train ride, an art theft, and a wayward presidential election.

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