By Penelope Fitzgerald
(Mariner Books, Paperback, 9780395956182, 160pp.)
Publication Date: September 1999
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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"Freddie's" is the familiar name of the Temple Stage School, which supplies London's West End theaters with child actors for everything from Shakespeare to musicals to the Christmas pantomime. Its proprietress, Freddie Wentworth, is a formidable woman of unknown age and murky background who brings anyone she encounters under her spell -- so common an occurrence that it is known as "being Freddied." At her school, we meet dour Pierce, a teacher hopelessly smitten with enchanting Hannah; Jonathan, a child actor of great promise, and his slick rival Mattie; and Joey Blatt, who has wicked plans to rescue Freddie's from insolvency. Up to its surprising conclusion, At Freddie's is thoroughly beguiling.
Penelope Fitzgerald wrote many books small in size but enormous in popular and critical acclaim over the past two decades. Over 300,000 copies of her novels are in print, and profiles of her life appeared in both The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. In 1979, her novel OFFSHORE won Britain's Booker Prize, and in 1998 she won the National Book Critics Circle Prize for THE BLUE FLOWER. Though Fitzgerald embarked on her literary career when she was in her 60's, her career was praised as "the best argument.. for a publishing debut made late in life" (New York Times Book Review). She told the New York Times Magazine, "In all that time, I could have written books and I didn't. I think you can write at any time of your life." Dinitia Smith, in her New York Times Obituary of May 3, 2000, quoted Penelope Fitzgerald from 1998 as saying, "I have remained true to my deepest convictions, I mean to the courage of those who are born to be defeated, the weaknesses of the strong, and the tragedy of misunderstandings and missed opportunities, which I have done my best to treat as comedy, for otherwise how can we manage to bear it?"
Welcome to Temple Stage School, a place for child actors. At Freddie's by Penelope Fitzgerald stars proprietress Freddie, her misfit students and her troubled teachers as they try to save the school. Author Ben Dolnick encourages you to take a front row seat with this bittersweet comedy. More at NPR.org
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"A work of immense poise and dignity, but warmth and humor, too... This is definitely one of the most charming - but strongly textured - novels anyone will read in a long while." Booklist, ALA
"Fiztgerald is a deft and nimble writer...[who] displays the English gift for understatement. Her apt phrases are tossed off casually; her humor is flicked at us airily. [At Freddie's] is intriguing to the end." The Washington Post
"Mrs. Fitzgerald's special talent is stylistic, a mannered comic dryness that relishes absurdities without dwelling on them too long: she moves at speed, is full of dry observations and inventions, and at her best is very funny." -- Anthony Thwaite Observer