Monday, May 07, 2007

Book 22: Freddy and Fredericka

NUMBER: 22
TITLE: Freddy and Fredericka
AUTHOR: Mark Helprin
STARTED: April 22, 2007
FINISHED: May 6, 2007
PAGES: 553
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: The wind was luffing over the tablelands of Skye as a storm built up at sea, but its slow passage promised hours more of sunshine and that the lake would stay blue.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Freddy, the Prince of Wales, is a stiff intellectual, while his beautiful wife, Princess Fredericka, lives for public adoration. To save the monarchy from an all-consuming media circus, these thinly veiled versions of Prince Charles and Princess Diana are sent on a mission; they're kicked out of the palace and literally dropped from a plane into New Jersey. To avoid the limelight while wandering America, they must live as destitute tramps and find themselves tossed into myriad strange situations. But, remarkably, through their hardscrabble existence they find themselves drawn closer together than ever before.

REASON FOR READING: I honestly can't remember now.

THOUGHTS: I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate it (!) when an author goes out of his way to prove that he is witty and intelligent. To me, that smacks of arrogance and ego rather than brains. I spent most of this book waffling on whether or not I actually liked it. On the downside, it was long, slow, and the author was condescending; on the upside, it made me laugh (occasionally) and Helprin did write some particularly thoughtful passages. By the last chapter, however, I just wanted to through the book across the room in protest. Freddy and Fredericka could have been 250 pages shorter - and all the better for it. Those superfluous pages were full of nothing but the writer's own need to prove how much smarter and more droll he is than his reader. While this book has some redeeming qualities, it really is nothing more than a study of the author's fascination with his own inane drivel.

Freddy and Fredericka is a satire on royalty, the media, the American way of life and politics, and the endurance of love. It's too bad that Helprin's story crosses from satire into the absolute absurd. The story and jokes within it feel completely telegraphed. I can actually picture Helprin sitting down and stating, "I will name my character suchandsuch so that I may make this joke. Ha HA! I am good." The book is a long, nonsensical conversation tied loosely together with preposterous situations. The few brilliant moments of narrative insight about life and the characters therein drown in a sea of utter nonsense. If I had to read one more stupid page involving confused dialog about the "Knott" character I was going to scream.

None of the characters or their situations are redeeming. This novel was supposed to be about the growth of characters, instead Freddy and Fredericka come across as one-dimensional idiots. There is no depth to the story and it completely lacks emotion. I'm sorry to say that Helprin, though skilled with vocabulary and possessing a certain skillful turn or phrase, does nothing for me in this book. I feel no connection to the story or the characters. The themes are left wandering in a goo of trite dialog and jokes. Helprin may have had something to say but he's too busy thinking of his own wit that he forgets to make a point.

It took me a little over two weeks to read this book. Two weeks of rolling my eyes and skoffing. I want those two weeks back. Mr. Helprin, a word of advice, if you have to prove your amazing capabilities, you're nothing but an arrogant poser.

MISCELLANEOUS: I finished this during the Queen's visit to the states. Eerie.

RATING: 2/10 [Awful]

3 comments:

patricia said...

At least you had the strength to finish the book. Me, I got through about one third of it and said to myself, "Why am I wasting my time on this?"

Totally agree with your review. Terrible book.

Meghan said...

Ha! I wouldn't call sticking through books a strength. For some reason, once I start a book I refuse to not finish it, no matter how bad it is.

I'm hoping to grow out of it, but I have a feeling I will remain stubborn.

Jennifer said...

I became intrigued by your rating system and did some exploring in your archives. Did you realize that of your 9- and 10-of-10 rated books, none are romance novels? Of your 1- and 2-of-10 rated books, nearly all are romance novels?

I know I tease you about your affinity for romance novels, but based on your ratings, my teasing has a lot of merit.