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Paperback At Freddie's Book

ISBN: 0395956188

ISBN13: 9780395956182

At Freddie's

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Book Overview

Fitzgerald writes a story about the formidable proprietress of "Freddie's, " the Temple Stage School, which provides child actors for London's West End theaters, a promising child actor and his rival, and a man with wicked plans to rescue Freddie's from insolvency.

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

The strange world of theatre - children's theatre

What a surprising book and what a funny one. The first Penelope Fitzgerald I read and a lovely introduction to her wonderfully witty work. "At Freddie's" is life in a slowly fading London Theatre school for children. It is the 1960's and Freddie, who is the mysterious woman who runs the school, believes that children should be trained for Shakespeare and for the stage - not for the fleeting career of television and advertisements which are starting to pull children from other schools.Into this world drop Carroll, an unsuprisable Irishman, who doesn't seem to be able to do anything. He applies to Freddie for a job as a teacher but admits he can't really teach, or in fact do anything. Freddie hires him because he is cheap and honest, and he procedes to do just what his interview shows he could do so promisingly - nothing. But he has fallen in love with the other teacher who applied the same day, Hannah. Hannah is more ambitious and wants to 'chose, not be chosen'. A dictate which runs her life. Their relationship is played out against the lives of school's precocious children, mostly the strange friendship of Mattie - a 13 year old child over-actor and the quiet, self-contained 9 year-old, Jonathon.It was a wonderful, fun read.

Not if it?s with me, dear.

"Freddie", a woman who is part institution and part legend, speaks the quote above; she is also the latest spectacular person that Ms. Fitzgerald offers to readers.The quote is unremarkable until it is penned as an answer to an Accountant named "Unwin", who stated, "Surely a discussion should have a basis of substantial fact." The rejoinder that is the title of this review follows, and you have a good sense that Freddie flaunts convention, floats above the rules that affect others, and when she is confronted with a bit of reality, ends the discussion with her nemesis feeling not only were they wrong, but they are indebted to her. A debt collector not only fails to collect, he leaves his vest for use as a costume for the students of Freddie's school for children of the theatre.Precocious children are not new to Ms. Fitzgerald's books. In this book the line between child and adult is blurred even further, as these thespians in the making are adept at changing who they are when circumstances or their own whimsy calls. All the affectation that can be associated with their mature counterparts of the stage, are played out by the kids, and this makes for wonderful reading, as age is modified by characterization, and not measured in years.There are more eccentric players in this book than the others I have read by Ms. Fitzgerald, to sample just one, a gentleman when deciding on which of the sins he would choose, does not pick one with even some benefit in this life, but chooses sloth. His opinion of himself is in line with the wish, and a more pathetic character has rarely appeared.Into all this there is a love triangle of sorts, a grand piano that is sinking through the floor, "as though wading ashore", and a vast and rich story that Ms. Fitzgerald once again delivers on so few, but so spectacular pages.

Theatrical Skullduggery

Penelope Fitzgerald is at her most devilishly entrancing in this tale revolving around the London acting school run (and I mean RUN!) by Freddie, a larger-than-life Gorgon whose will cannot be resisted. Fitzgerald has fun skewering the backstage pretentions, intrigue and petty jealousies of the London theater world of the early 1960s, but, clearly loving every seedy corner of it, she celebrates it with such gusto that you want to sign up on the spot for a season or two. That combination of wryness and fondness makes this short novel among Fitzgerald's most satisfying. And when Freddie goes out looking for a pound or two, hang on to your wallets!

A totally original character

At Freddie's may not be the absolute best of all Fitzgerald's novels (the competence is so stiff), but Freddie may very well be her most original and likeable character. If you love theater, Shakespeare, London, have a sense of humor and some respect for children's creativity for mischief, in all probability you will be as defenseless against her as all the other characters seem to be in this very compact, very enjoyable and unexpectedly moving novel . All Fitzgerald books can take us to other worlds, the world of Freddie truly deserves to be visited.
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