Freddy and Fredericka, by Mark Helprin

As Prince and Princess of Wales, Freddy and Fredericka are a constant embarrassment to his mother, the Queen, and to the nation. Obviously based on Charles and Diana, the two create tabloid fodder wherever they go. Unfaithful Freddy does not love his wife, who only cares about fashion, shopping and her own appearance. His own appearance is ludicrous enough, but his misadventures and bumbling make it worse. His words are taken out of context by a mocking press, and he is made to appear ridiculous in the eyes of his nation and the world, while Fredericka is universally praised and beloved no matter what she does, even when she gives a flagrantly inaccurate speech concocted for her by Freddy. Eventually their misadventures become so egregious that they are sent on a secret mission to the U.S., parachuting into an industrial wasteland in New Jersey with no possessions and clad only in furry bikinis.

Yes, that's the level of silliness. I've long enjoyed Helprin's books, but this comic novel is quite a departure. In the mode of _Tristram Shandy_ or _Don Quixote_, the book makes no pretense at realism. It employs the classic quest story structure, well-known to us from King Arthur and from fairy tales where the son who is considered a bit of a doofus goes into the woods or climbs a beanstalk and manages to rescue the princess or kill the giant. Coincidences abound and events converge to drive the story.

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