Synopses & Reviews
“A jewel of a book.” —Daily Mail
It is the 1960s, in London’s West End, and Freddie is the formidable proprietress of the Temple Stage School, which supplies child actors for everything from Shakespeare to musicals to the Christmas pantomime. Of unknown age and provenance, Freddie is a skirt-swathed enigma—a woman who by sheer force of character and single-minded thrust has turned herself and her school into a national institution. Anyone who is anyone must know Freddie.
Filled with unique and hilarious insights into the theatrical world, At Freddie’s is a beguiling story for those of us who sometimes pretend to be something we are not.
“Love, fear, class, ambition, even death—it's all in here, but so elegantly presented that you've finished your plate before you even think to ask about the ingredients.” —National Public Radio
"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
"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.
The last book and only collection of short stories by Penelope Fitzgerald fittingly showcases her at her wisest, her funniest, her best. Like her novels, these stories are "mordantly funny, morally astute . . . [as] they plumb the endless absurdities of the human heart" (Washington Post Book World). Roaming the globe and the ages, the stories travel from England to France to New Zealand and from today to the seventeenth century and back again.
Now featuring an introductory essay by A. S. Byatt and two newly published stories, this Mariner edition of THE MEANS OF ESCAPE "serves as an elegiac gift to dedicated fans of her award-winning novels and a tantalizing introduction for new readers" (Entertainment Weekly). It memorializes a writer guided by a generous but unwavering moral gaze and proves once more "why [Fitzgerald] will endure" (Los Angeles Times Book Review).
About the Author
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?"
Table of Contents
Introduction by A. S. Byatt ix The Means of Escape 1 The Prescription 23 Desideratus 35 Beehernz 47 The Axe 63 The Red-Haired Girl 79 Not Shown 95 At Hiruharama 105 The Likeness 119 Our Lives Are Only Lent to Us 135