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Freddy and Fredericka

C+

In this puffy new novel, Freddy, Britain’s (barely) fictionalized Prince of Wales, is a stodgy bore with giant ears (”on the day he was born God blessed the cartoonists”), while his wife is a vapid, statuesque blonde (”she could seem less intelligent than garden mulch”). Sound familiar? Sick of the bad publicity the couple attracts, the Queen has them airlifted to New Jersey where, incognito, they must prove themselves worthy of the crown. Or not. While Stateside, Freddy and Fredericka slather on self-tanner to pass as Jamaicans, clean toilets, sleep in the Lincoln Memorial, and have their teeth knocked out, presumably learning lessons in the process. Though he gets off lots of sassy lines, Mark Helprin has taken the tiniest sliver of a clever conceit and blown it up into a severely bloated door stopper in Freddy and Fredericka.

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