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Freddy and Fredericka

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,043 Ratings  ·  506 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 553 pages
Published July 25th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 2005)
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Community Reviews

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Nov 11, 2008 Shane rated it it was amazing
I loved it. I love Mark Helprin.

It took a while for me to see the plot developing as the setup took a good couple hundred pages, but once you get through the setup -- which is hilarious if you just roll with it -- you get to the good stuff. My favorite thing about Helprin's books is the way he does all this crazy wordsmithing and then out of nowhere condenses it all into a paragraph of precise truth. Those moments leave me in tears. I loved it.

(My thing is precision in language. As a linguist
Jul 27, 2007 Steven rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone looking for a humorous and fun story
I don't know if it's just me, but novels seem to be necessarily depressing. They're always dark and brooding. They always seem to capture the very worst side of humanity. When someone can write something that's bright and cheerful and make it interesting I'm always impressed.

This book is laugh out loud funny. I found myself guffawing on various modes of public transportation while reading this. It's really impressive that he can write physical slapstick humor and have it be funny. Halprin has a
Michael O.
Dec 05, 2012 Michael O. rated it it was amazing
I read Winter's Tale a few years ago, and thought it was beautifully if over- written, with a much too threadbare plot to hold up its many pages. Still, I liked it enough to pick up Freddy and Fredericka, which I began to read on a whim. Boy am I glad I did.

My copy of the book claims in two places that "This is one of the quickest 500-page books you'll ever read!" It's a compliment, I guess, and it's more or less right - but Helprin still writes beautifully, and I wasn't skipping through it to g
The Book Maven
Aug 24, 2013 The Book Maven rated it it was amazing
Woooo, doggy, this one was a dense one.

A spoof on the British royal family, Freddy and Fredericka tell the story of the Prince and Princess of Wales, the title characters. They are next in line for the throne, and hopelessly ill-equipped for the weighty responsibilities, traditions, customs, and gravity that come with this position. At least vapid, materialistic, uneducated Fredericka is unready; Freddy has a deep awareness of his destiny, but his over-educated dialog, arcane sense of humor, in
Apr 16, 2008 Tim rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written and absolutely hilarious. While about the British Royal family in an alternative world pretty much our own, it also is a beautiful love story and a thoughtful reflection on America, power, and class. The title characters are the Prince and Princess of Wales, who, due to some horrible publicity, are sent on a quest to America. Its been a long time since I laughed out loud this many times at a book - think Wodehouse and Tom Sharpe. And it is an intelligent laughter, slapstick a ...more
Jan 12, 2009 Alan rated it did not like it
I am a great fan of Mark Halperin. I loved "Winters Tale" which was a lyrical, often beautiful fantasy, and "Soldier of the Great War" which I found a moving evocation of love, life and war. So it is with real regret that I have to report that this latest book is nothing but childish balderdash.
Yes I know it comes festooned with praise but someone has to say that the emperor has no clothes. How utterly sad to see a talented writer waste his considerable gifts on this.
The humor is below 3rd grade
I love this book.

Have you ever seen Blackadder? I don't just mean the first season; I mean the seasons that make you realize Mr. Bean can be really sexy with some facial hair. For me, there are two very board and very general types of comedy (okay, there are really lots of comedy genres, but I'm talking very board stokes here). There is mean with the chance it might be funny (Letterman), and there is biting but funny and nice/touching (Blackadder, any British comedy, really). For instance, there
Dec 13, 2012 Suzanne rated it did not like it
Let to me begin by saying I was a big fan of Mark Helprin. Years ago I relished the beautiful imagery of A Winter’s Tale. More recently I found Memoir from Antproof Case to be one of the most hilarious books I’d ever read. So no one could have been more surprised than I was to find that I really disliked Freddy and Fredericka.

The premise is this: the Prince and Princess of Wales are found by Parliament to be unfit to ascend to the throne. They are given one last chance to prove their merit. A se
Mar 02, 2009 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all readers
Shelves: general-fiction
I was already a devoted fan of Mark Helprin when this novel was released, so when I saw it on the shelves I bought it immediately. I expected I would encounter a tale sweeping in scope, full of deeply human characters, and all spun forth in the rich, dazzling prose that is Helprin's inimitable style. And while all these hallmarks are indeed present, Helprin has decided to turn them on their collective ear, and the result is something delightfully unexpected.

To explain, and by way of summary, the
Dec 30, 2007 Meri rated it really liked it
Shelves: magic-realism
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 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 ineptitud ...more
Sep 12, 2011 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I tried to read both Winter's Tale and the Ant-Proof book but neither book interested me in the least. My husband loves them, and he reads about one novel every other year (when Christopher Buckley writes one, generally) so that about sums Helprin up for me.

However, a friend gave me this for my birthday and I gave it a try. First, I love books about noble struggles, books that combine modern conundrums with ancient solutions, books about finding true love. The opening scene in which Freddy has t
Jason Mills
Oct 31, 2010 Jason Mills rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of life and laughter
The unlikely premise of this glorious romp is that the Prince and Princess of Wales are behaving so fecklessly as royals that they are parachuted without resources into the USA, to undergo trial by fire and retake the colonies for the crown! The pair begin as alternate versions, caricatures, of Charles and Diana, but their journey transfigures them into bigger, bolder and deeper characters. They follow a picaresque series of increasingly funny adventures as they cross the continent, finding new ...more
Sep 03, 2013 Ashley rated it liked it
Shelves: brit-lit
I have no idea how to rate this book—it’s hilarious and ridiculous, farcical and heartwarming. (The beginning and end of the book—the parts set in Great Britain—are worthy of a full 5 stars.) At one point I actually laughed until there were tears streaming down my face, and several times my husband had the treat of being read an especially amusing part aloud (which usually resulted in a puzzled look and a quick exit from the room). Other times, though, Helprin settled for humor that was a bit ju ...more
Yes, this book got off to a slow start. Yes, this book has some painfully slapstick comedy and ludicrous linguistic manoeuvrings. Yes, some parts of it dragged.

But at the heart of Freddy and Fredericka is a deep love of the British monarchy despite (or because of) its absurdities and a deep love of the United States despite (or because of) its fantastical scope. I laughed out loud many times, causing my family anxiety about my mental health when I tried to explain the scenarios that caused my mi
Jan 28, 2008 Lynn rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned, bookgroup
Ok, I did not read the whole book. Around page 125 I called it quits. Funny, yes, but not enough to endure 500+ pages with the knowledge in the back of my mind that Helprin wrote speeches for Bob Dole. Plus, everything I know about the British royals came from the film The Queen, so I lack the background to fully appreciate the subject matter here. I'll eat crow at bookgroup next month when others report how well they liked it. Onward...
Wes O'Dell
Aug 26, 2009 Wes O'Dell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeremy Purves
Aug 01, 2012 Jeremy Purves rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
This is probably the most comical book of Helprin's with a number of laugh-out-loud moments in it. But it's not just a comedy. There are a whole collection of beautifully written and inspiring passages. Reaching the ending, I can't help leaving the book convinced more than ever that I've been cheated by my modern education. The reason the two main characters become the heroes that they do is because they are educated (and then proceed to educate themselves further) in a wide swath of history, li ...more
Aug 19, 2011 Patricia rated it really liked it
I got this book from a booklist at the library, one of those "if you like this, you might like this" sort of things. I can't find what the "this" was that led me to the book, but I quite indeed like this book and I'm thankful for the list for steering me to it.

In an alternate present, the Prince of Wales (Freddy, son of Phillipa, not Charles, son of Elizabeth) is sent by the mysterious Mr. Neil to travel incognito with his glamorous wife to conquer the United States of America. The book skewers
Amy Masonis
Nov 25, 2012 Amy Masonis rated it really liked it
Well...I couldn't put it down. A very strange, boomerang kind of storytelling that I unexpectedly fell in love with. Slapstick comedy got married to the most beautiful and loving descriptions of the characters making their way through the life that was given to them. Do what, what?! This story was absurd 10,000%, but that's the point. It HAS to be over-the-top, because that's really the way life is, isn't it? And Mark Helprin's language was some of the most beautiful I've ever read, when Freddy ...more
Jan 05, 2010 Karma rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
I had a really difficult time getting into this book. I don't know, I think the author's sense of humor just didn't do it for me. By the time things started picking up in the story line, I was so annoyed that it had taken that long to get to that point, I had started reading another book and really wasn't interested in returning to Freddy and Fredericka. Maybe I'll try it again another time, skipping the long first several chapters.
Jun 02, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it
Hmmm, well…it took me a very long time to gain any interest in reading this book. Helprin takes an exceedingly long time getting to the rising action of the story. He spends at least 100 pages developing the characters, and considering there were only two in this novel, it moved very slowly for me. I own his three children’s stories (which I highly recommend) and I suppose I went into this novel expecting immediate greatness. The slow pace, coupled with the presence of a bumbling but misundersto ...more
David Eppenstein
One of the best and funniest books I have ever read in my life. I recommend this book to all my friends. It's about a British Royal Family that the reader can't help but identify it with the present royal family during the life of Princess Diana. The queen and the British people despair at the Prince and Princess of Wales ever being fit to reign. This despair requires the the queen to send for Mr. Neil, the 10,000 year old guardian of the monarchy who is then presently working in an Italian sex ...more
Nov 06, 2007 sage rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, fiction
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, tiresom
Bookmarks Magazine

Readers will recognize Prince Charles and Princess Diana in this farcical fairy tale about the contemporary ills of right-wing America and the British monarchy__and fans of Princess Diana will not be amused. Frederick and Fredericka is an imaginative story about politics and society that feels loose, undisciplined, and self-indulgent. (But hey, stop the presses__Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times liked a book!) Although the story moves along quickly, it nonetheless takes too long to reach it

Jun 14, 2013 Lobstergirl rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Don Knotts
Shelves: own, fiction

There are times, many, many times, when Freddy and Fredericka seems near collapse from the weight of its own silliness and slapstick humor. On occasion I had to turn to dense nonfiction as a palate cleanser. I can't say the plot, which involves a Merlin-like character sending Freddy and Fredericka, two British royals vaguely modeled on Charles and Diana, to America in order to reclaim it for the Empire, so that Freddy might earn his place in the royal succession, held my interest. Yet at the end
James Johnson
May 08, 2015 James Johnson rated it really liked it
A book that loses itself in its own beauty at times, full of awe at the wonders of humanity while seeking to find the king or queen in all of us. We learn the difference between birthright and duty, insanity and individuality and, most importantly, we learn that royalty is a state of mind as much as a part of the bloodstream. The book is fine satire and occasional farce, worth reading but not a turning point.
Jan 11, 2016 Bookworm rated it did not like it
Maybe this shouldn't have been my first Helprin book. I like historical fiction, I don't mind alternate history/fantasy history type books at all. But this was a really tedious read and I wonder if perhaps this wasn't a good Helprin book to choose as my first.

The book was very slow to start. As other reviewers have said, it takes awhile for the plot to get together. I don't mind that for scene setting or if it has a good payoff in the end, but by the time it gelled together it was difficult to c
Imagine if Douglas Adams or Jasper Fforde had written The Uncommon Reader, and you have an inkling of what Freddy and Fredericka is like. The titular couple are so woefully inadequate as heirs to the throne that they are forced to improve themselves by a hard-knocks education in a colonial backwater--namely, America. Farcical humor abounds, and poor Freddy's often misheard or misunderstood statements bring to mind that Wildean epigram that England and America have everything in common, except la ...more
Jul 12, 2015 Carolyn rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I bought this book some time ago and found that I had three Helprin novels on the shelf and had yet to read anything by the man. I’m so glad I finally did as this novel was really lots of fun. Tale of two bumbling oafs in the Royal Family sent off to “conquer America” and stop embarrassing themselves. In the tradition of comedies of manners, or Tristam Shandy. While the subjects, and many of the periphery characters, are soundly mocked, there are also beautiful, poetic, descriptive passages as t ...more
Marilyn Lagier
Dec 07, 2015 Marilyn Lagier rated it it was ok
The first thing: thank goodness I am done with this book and can donate it to Friends of the Lilbrary,. How it became a NYTimes bestseller is beyond me. There were so many times that I wanted to just give it up, put it in the give-away bag, but I just figured--I'm going to finish no matter what. I will admit that there were chapters in the middle that weren't bad, and that's why I gave it 2 stars instead of just 1. On the jacket back, the book was discribed as an "allegory"--to that I would agre ...more
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What's The Name o...: SOLVED!: Deposed king and queen of England [s] 5 22 Oct 16, 2007 07:36AM  
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Mark Helprin belongs to no literary school, movement, tendency, or trend. As many have observed and as Time Magazine has phrased it, “He lights his own way.” His three collections of short stories (A Dove of the East and Other Stories, Ellis Island and Other Stories, and The Pacific and Other Stories), six novels (Refiner's Fire, Winter's Tale, A Soldier of the Great War, Memoir From Antproof Case ...more
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“A good river is nature's life work in song.” 18 likes
“But you won’t abdicate."
Of course not. It’s my duty to go on, to maintain the line. I can’t possibly fail in that. It’s as if you and I were throwing a ball back and forth to establish a record, and had been doing so for a millennium. You cannot drop a ball that has remained airborne through good effort for most of a thousand years. You cannot stop an unlikely heart that has been beating for so long. I would rather die than betray continuity, for its own sake if for nothing else. And Britain needs a king, just as it needs motormen and cooks and a prime minister. Just as it needs soldiers who will die for it if they must. It’s my job, or it will be, but you should know that I’ve never wanted it. I was only born to it, as if with a deformity, to which I hope I can respond with grace."
Fredericka had been running her finger over the carpet, tracing a pattern in the way children do when they have learnt something overwhelming and are moved, but cannot say so. Freddy expected her to look up, with tears, and that in this moment she might have begun the long and arduous process of becoming a queen. She was so beautiful. To embrace her now, with high emotion flowing from her physical majesty, was all he wanted in the world. Her finger stopped moving, and she turned her eyes to him.
Yes?" he answered.
What’s raw egg? I read a recipe in She that called for a cup of raw egg. What is that?"
After a long silence, Freddy asked, "Which part of the formulation escapes you? Egg? Raw? The link between the two?"
The two what?"
Yes, Freddy?"
Would you like to go dancing?"
Oh, yes Freddy!"
Come then. We will.”
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