Reviews

“A rollicking picturesque saga that reads as though Evelyn Waugh had put the movies Roman Holiday and Duck Soup into a blender along with some old copies of People magazine and a couple of Mark Twain’s travelogues, and seasoned the resulting confection with generous helpings of his own black comedy. . . . Freddy and Fredericka´s adventures are completely preposterous, and they’re recounted with a pitch-perfect sense of the absurd. Their utterly daft exchanges with each other; their longing for ordinary, anonymous lives combined with their total ignorance of the real world; their vacillation between heartfelt populism and reflexive royal prerogative all make for lots of zany comedy, heightened by Mr. Helprin´s delight in using puns, homonyms and the differences between British and American English to compound his characters´ woes. . . . With Freddy and Fredericka, Mr. Helprin has constructed a perfect showcase for his heretofore underused gift of humor, and in doing so he has produced a delightful romp of a book.” (The New York Times)

“It is an unexpected, delightful departure for the author, whose 2004 book The Pacific and Other Stories, was a carefully wrought collection with the delicacy and magic of his earlier novel A Soldier of the Great War. Freddy and Fredericka recalls American journeys of self-discovery by Mark Twain, John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac . . . [and] I promise you, this will be one of the fastest 500-page novels you’ll ever read.” (Nick Owchar, Los Angeles Times)

“The book takes aim . . . at a world that can no longer recognize as truly grand the enormous madness and energy of that strange country called America. . . .Think of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, or Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, or Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim, or Tom Sharpe’s The Throwback. With his lyrical prose and epic imagination in such books as Winter’s Tale, A Soldier of the Great War, Memoir from Antproof Case and last year’s The Pacific and Other Stories, Mr. Helprin has proved himself a major fiction writer and perhaps the only one of his generation it is plausible to call a genuine conservative.” (The Wall Street Journal)

Freddy and Fredericka is as searing in its denunciation of contemporary life as anything in recent fiction, possessing a greater satirical breadth than anything written by Evelyn Waugh, and as relentlessly probing as Don DeLillo at his most acutely paranoiac. It’s also a richly sympathetic work . . . and, concurrent with its fierce satirical bite, deeply and truly heartening. . . . Helprin possesses the ability that all good writers have: to compel his or her readers to feel more alive. Freddy and Fredericka is a work of great seriousness, hilarity, and simple enjoyment . . . . Swift, Twain, and Fielding come most easily to mind, [and] Mark Helprin’s central achievements in creating Freddy and Fredericka´s singular world are as perennial as they are contemporary, showing us how we live and instructing us how to live better. He’s accomplished both feats admirably.” (Toronto Globe and Mail)

“That this book is hilarious is not in dispute. . . . No book in recent memory takes the risks that this one does, and it scores big in terms of innovation, cultural commentary, and humor: three things so often lacking in modern fiction. The ‘heartbeat’ of America, Freddy explains helpfully at one point, is ‘Being nowhere, on the way to somewhere, with music, on the open road.’ This book rolls along with that same invigorating rhythm, and its enjoyable nature reconfirms what Freddy and Fredericka discover on their picaresque tour: It’s all about the journey, and sometimes unexpected rewards are the richest.” (The Chicago Sun-Times)

“This is one of those novels about which you say as you read, ‘This part’s funnier. No, this part’s funnier.’ . . . It’s droll and exciting, sweet and exquisitely written.” (The Detroit Free Press)

“If I am able in this review to convey in any way adequately the mixture of bafflement, wonder, hilarity, lyricism, elegaic tone, parody, allegory, fairy tale, quest, wordplay, absurdity, common sense, scathing satire and love story that make up this novel, I will be satisfied. . . . I can think of no book in the last 20 years that has so challenged my ability to make a judgement about it.” (Logan Browning, The Houston Chronicle)

“Humorous in its parodies and hilarious in its slapstick shticks and verbal tomfoolery, Freddy and Fredericka is delightfully rich. . . . With a Midas touch, Helprin unapologetically brings out the best in his characters and renews one’s faith in mere mortals.” (The Miami Herald)

“In the loneliest of projects, writer Mark Helprin has undertaken to exalt the traditional verities of courage, love, and endurance. . . . Envision a People profile of Prince Charles written by J.K. Rowling (if she could write half as well as Helprin). . . . There’s no other writer like him. God save him, too.” (Elle)

“The indelible, over achieving Mark Helprin, having done just about everything else, has produced, for his fifth novel, 553 pages of truly funny farce tucked around an earnest treatise on man’s capacity for greatness. An epic quest narrative heavily dosed with Monty Python-style silliness, Freddy and Fredericka is one of the most delightfully odd and truly surprising novels to come around in a long time.” (The New York Observer)

“The work that Helprin’s splendidly written novel most closely resembles may be Don Quixote, even if Fredericka “thinks Cervantes is a dip for prawns.” Like the first modern novel, Freddy and Fredericka features a comic duo, one member, possibly crazy, adhering to antique codes of gallantry and duty who flee from one embarrassing mishap to another in pursuit of a lofty goal that gathers poignancy as their adventures end. . . . As Freddy slowly rises in America, Helprin shows how it’s his royal upbringing and sense of decency that allow him to succeed. Ultimately, Mark Helprin’s whimsical, very funny novel manages to be, for lack of a better description, elegiac, transcendent and lyrical.” (The Vancouver Sun)