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At Freddie's by Penelope Fitzgerald
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At Freddie's (1982)

by Penelope Fitzgerald

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  pgchuis | Feb 5, 2017 |
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. ( )
  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
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. ( )
  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
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. ( )
  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
Another flawless novel. Freddie runs a theatre school for children, right in the theatre district. Times are changing and Freddie is lagging behind and the school, always in dire financial straits, is going deeper than ever, perhaps fatally. Along comes Mr. Blatt with the money to help out, but he hasn't taken into account Freddie herself. PF tells you exactly what you need to know to fill in the rest of the picture. As in Offshore she chooses to illuminate a group of eccentric people who are gathered around a woman with charisma and participating in a life that is out of the mainstream, this time the theatrical life. There are children, cheeky and appealing, and more or less running wild and there is a doomed love affair . . . you are privileged to be dipped into a particular moment of change in a way of life that has gone on so long that it seems unshakeable - that is what the novel is focussed on and it supercedes what actually might happen to each character. ****1/2 ( )
  sibyx | Aug 19, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Fitzgerald, Penelopeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Callow, SimonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, HermionePrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0395956188, Paperback)

Age has indeed withered the proprietress of London's Temple School for child actors, but custom has yet to stale her infinite, cadging variety. Freddie--born Frieda Wentworth--is Penelope Fitzgerald's most marvelous sacred monster, a woman insanely devoted to her art. Over several decades she has foiled debt collectors, creditors, and bailiffs at every turn. What matter if Freddie's Covent Garden redoubt is freezing and falling apart, her own office-cum-bedroom a haven for must and dust, mold and mothballs? When one would-be financier has the temerity to display a balance sheet, she orders him to put it away, "in the tone she used to the local flasher." After all, this force of theatrical nature can always rely on actors and theaters for desperate, last-minute donations. On the other hand, it is 1963, and the school is threatened by others specializing in film and TV training, but so far Freddie is sticking to her Shakespearean guns.

The Temple's permanent staff consists of an unskilled handyman and Freddie's assistant and dresser, the possibly malevolent Miss Blewett. Its acting coaches include a man who's made his career out of understudying Nana, the dog-nurse in Peter Pan. Needless to say, the students are not impressed. To further trim expenses, Freddie has hired two new teachers from Northern Ireland. One, Hannah Graves, is qualified; the other, Pierce Carroll, decidedly not--but Freddie hires him for other reasons: "She had heard in his remarks the weak, but pure, voice of complete honesty. She was not sure that she had ever heard it before, and thought it would be worth studying as a curiosity." These two innocents are in academic charge of the young thespians, an egomaniacal, mostly mendacious lot. (In a stage school, after all, insincerity is a good thing.) But Freddie's does house one genius: 9-year-old, unknowable Jonathan Kemp. Even his guinea pig inherits his bad luck, and is soon devoured by one of the theater district's roving felines. Jonathan seems destined to be overshadowed by Mattie Stewart (later Stewart Matthews), a showoff who at least has the grace--even if it is manifested in spurts of violence--to know himself inferior. Meanwhile, we watch Pierce fall in love, hopelessly, with his colleague. Alas, he hasn't a chance against the dissipated actor Boney Lewis, though Hannah tries not to destroy him: "At the corner, she gave him a hug and a kiss, as one does to a cousin, or to the inconsolable."

At Freddie's, Penelope Fitzgerald's 1982 parable of the talents, constantly shifts between such despair and high comedy. Many Fitzgerald-philes feel that she reached her apex in her three European novels--Innocence, The Beginning of Spring, and The Blue Flower. In fact, she had already arrived there with this perfect novel of ideas, ideals, and oddities. --Kerry Fried

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:59 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Fitzgerald writes a story about the formidable proprietress of "Freddie's, " the Temple Stage School, which provides child actors for London's West End theaters, a promising child actor and his rival, and a man with wicked plans to rescue Freddie's from insolvency.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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