So, that time that I got locked out of my office and worked at the library and they were having a used book sale — I also picked up Freddy And Fredericka by Mark Halpern.
I will be completely honest here. I picked this book up entirely because of its name and the faux royal crest on the cover. The name is a funny inside joke, and the royal seal made it funnier. Plus, it’s 550+ pages were priced to move at $1.50. Sure, you might argue, that since I was in the library at the time, I could have taken the book home for free. Clearly you have no understanding for the depths of my bookolepsy illness. Anyway, if you want to know more about this one, hit that” more” link.
The blurb on the inside flap says that the book is “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.” And I suppose that’s true. I think the word “allegory” might be a tad off. It’s more of a farce or satire, which quickly becomes apparent when characters such as the prince’s mistress have names like “Lady Boylinghot”. A palace is called “Moocock”. Not much allegory there, but make sure your satire helmet is firmly buckled.
The story is about a noble, but isolated Prince of Wales who is biding his time to become king. The Princess of Wales is shallow and materialistic. They don’t care much for one another, and the first third of the book is about their absurdly comic lives. Freddy, the Prince, learns that a secret test of his worthiness to the throne has found him wanting. An ancient advisor to the Throne, Mr. Neil (an anagram for “Merlin” we learn later) is summoned. He devises a test for Freddy to prove his worthiness. Freddy and Fredericka are to be airdropped on the former colonies with nothing but loin clothes. Freddy must then reclaim the United States for the Crown to prove his worthiness.
Once the book moves to the US, Freddy and Fredericka undergo a series of adventures and soon learn the nobility of the common man. Through some accidents of fate, Freddy finds himself immersed in American politics where he becomes wildly popular. I won’t give the ending away, but hilarity ensues and lessons are learned.
As much as the book is supposed to be “deeply mocking” of the monarchy, it sure seems to go out of its way to show the inherent nobility of royalty and how they are, in fact, better than most of us. Strangely, the book makes a point of showing Freddy and Fredericka getting in touch with their true noble characters in the United States, “where every man is a prince”. Puh-leeze. That is some truly biting satire, no?
I don’t know Mr. Halpern’s nationality, but the author blurb says that he “was educated at Harvard, Princeton and Oxford, and served in the Israeli Army, Israeli Air Force, and British Navy”. Slacker.
I didn’t hate this book. I’d put it firmly in the “OK” column. If you’ve got this book and another possibly good book in your hands, go with the other one. If you find this book at a sale for $1.50, there are worse ways that you could go. I guess my overall impression was “meh”. I guess the lesson learned, and who could have foreseen this, is that a book bought with little foreknowledge of its merit and largely on the strength of its title and cover may not have been bought with the best purchasing criteria for an enjoyable read in mind. Live and learn.