Audiobook Review: Freddy & Fredericka, by Mark Helprin

Ask me what my favorite book is, and I will attempt to avoid the question. Press me, and I will most likely answer One Hundred Years of Solitude or Winter's Tale, depending on my mood. The latter, considered by many to be a modern classic, was the sophomore novel of Mark Helprin, written in 1983. I've read it twice. It's fantastic. It's one of those books I could not begin to review, because all that would follow would be gushing, gushing, gushing. If you disagree, go away.

Given my love for Helprin's most famous novel, I've recently attempted to explore some of his others. Freddy and Fredericka was a re-read for me, but as it is the most recent of his novels (originally published in 2005), I decided to return to it on audio this summer.

Let me just start with this: I. Love. This. Book. I love Mark Helprin. I love his writing, his wit, his genius at crafting a sentence, a paragraph, a novel. And that's all an understatement.

Here, Helprin tells the tale of the Prince and Princess of Wales, sent to the United States to reclaim it as a territory of Britain in order to prove their worth for the throne. There's a lot more to it than that, but summed up in one sentence, there's the plot.

Along the way, of course, they learn a lot: about themselves, about life outside of royalty, about life and living in general. Their naivety becomes a cloak that they wear with pride, and as they gradually learn to live without the cloak, they begin to truly understand the meaning of life.

A careful balance of magical realism and an incredible sense of humor prevents Helprin's work from becoming too transparent in its mission to educate, and though the story can be uneven at times, the characters are a delight to come to know, and Helprin's sneaky sense of humor has a way of sneaking in to save the day.

With Freddy and Fredericka, Helprin has crafted a collection of sentences, stories and ideas and drawn together into one absurd but cohesive plot structure, all perfectly narrated by Ian MacKenzie, whose charming British accent is the icing on this novel's swoon-worthy cake. And as a particular bonus, the conversation between Freddy and his charmingly ditzy wife often capitalizes on word play and misunderstanding, making the audio even more laugh-inducing than the print.

Though not as good as Winter's Tale (and really, nothing ever will be), fans of Helprin, well-crafted sentences, and delightfully absurd stories will enjoy this foray into British-cum-American culture.


Thoughts from other bookworms:
The Captive Reader
Red Hot Eyebrows
January Magazine


You may also like:
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin (bet you didn't see that one coming, didja!?)
An Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennet


Note: Many thanks to the AACPL for having an audio copy of this for my listening pleasure, especially since good friend JMOW has permanently borrowed my paper copy of this book, with all its precious underlines.


Freddy & Fredericka | Mark Helprin, nar. Ian MacKenzie | Recorded Books  | 9781419335914 | $49.99 CD | 25 hrs, 35 min | July 2005 | Buy from an independent bookstore near you


  1. I checked this book out from the library once, but never got around to reading it. I really love audiobooks though, so maybe I'll have to give it a second chance, based on your very glowing review. :)

  2. Jessica - I'd definitely recommend it, though Winter's Tale is better, if you haven't read that one yet!

  3. I bought A Winter's Tale but haven't got to it yet. So add that to the list of ones I wish I'd read this year.

    I have this on my wish list. I imagine you do too/ You should see it in person. WOW.

  4. Steph, I think you'd really like Winter's Tale. Also, I'd never even HEARD of A Kingdom Far and Clear... but clearly now I need to own, read, and cherish the set. Off to the bookstore I go!

  5. I have Freddy and Fredericka on my shelf - you have convinced me to move it up!


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