Neither an Anglophile nor a Royals watcher, I would never have picked Freddie and Fredericka, (576 pages) by Mark Helprin, off the shelf, except that it was an audio book—a set of 25 CDs. With hands free to garden or do quiet tasks around the house I had hours and hours of listening fun, complete with British accents.
Freddie and Fredericka, based on the Prince of Wales and Princess Diana, whose every move is fodder for the British press, have a farcical marriage and continually embarrass the queen and crown. A mysterious Mr. Neil (anagram for Merlin) is the catalyst for an all-purpose solution.
The royal couple is sent on a mission to re-colonize America, wearing nothing but hracneets (snakeskin and rabbit-fur bikinis). They parachute into the industrial wasteland of New Jersey—a site they assume, in the dark, is perhaps a large cricket field with fans gathered at bonfires, not the neo-Nazi bikers Freddie duels with before the pair makes their getaway on a stolen motorcycle. They are mistaken for bank robbers but foil police pursuit after being rescued by Jamaican emigrants who disguise them as African-Americans, and on it goes ad infinitum.
As they travel the broad expanse of America, riding the rails and taking menial jobs reminiscent of Woody Guthrie, the pair rediscovers their love and respect for one another. Having been given false identities as dentists, to cover them on their quest, Freddie intercedes in an interview with the president (a parody of George W. Bush), who is campaigning in his all but forgotten hometown during which a dental emergency lands him unconscious in Freddie and Fredrika’s dental practice, thereby making the president sound intelligent and well informed.
Rescued from an insane asylum, Freddy nearly becomes president. The royal couple develop a genuine admiration for the people and places that are America, the long lost colony, inadvertently resolving the problems that caused their banishment.
Humor is the best medicine, reportedly strengthening the immune system, reducing food cravings and increasing one’s threshold for pain, and this book provides a healthy dose.