French Exit

Title: French Exit

Author: Patrick deWitt

Summary: Frances Price – tart widow, possessive mother and Upper East Side force of nature – is in dire straits, beset by scandal. Her adult son Malcolm is no help, mired in a permanent state of arrested development. And then there’s their cat, who Frances believes houses the spirit of her late husband, an infamously immoral world-class cad whose gruesome tabloid death rendered Frances and Malcolm social outcasts.

The curious trio head for the exit, escape pariahdom and land in Paris – a backdrop for self-destruction and economic ruin, and peopled by a number of singular characters: a bashful private investigator, an aimless psychic and Mme. Reynard, aggressive houseguest and friendly American expat.

Brimming with pathos and wit, French Exit is a one-of-a-kind tragedy of manners, a riotous send-up of high society and a moving story of mothers and sons.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4.5/5

Review: I am, by this point, a deWitt fan girl. He is one of my few auto-buy authors who are currently still alive and writing. When i found this book available on NetGalley I hit request faster than you can blink. When my request was approved i started reading immediately.

Every deWitt novel is different and new. Observations on life from a barman, crime- and money-focused brothers in a western, love and friendship set in a bizarre fairytale. This time it’s family and loss amongst a comedy of manners. And i loved it.

Our main character is Frances, a rich and hard woman, she has few friends but is generous and affable with unlikely folk. She lives with her son, Malcolm, who often comes across as simple and easily led, but who grew on me immensely throughout the book. They are, at various and increasingly frequent points, joined by an array of characters. I couldn’t help but like them all, really. Joan, Frances’ oldest and dearest friend; Susan, Malcolm’s sweet and patient fiancée; as well as Madeline, Mme Reynard, Julian, and of course Small Frank.

After blowing through all of their money, Frances and Malcolm are faced with selling all their worldly possessions and fleeing to France… where Frances is set on spending the last of their money quick sharpish. There isn’t a huge amount of plot to speak of (in fact i’ve just spoken of it), but it is the characters and that carry the book. Their interactions, their thoughts and feelings, and what they choose to share (and hide) with those around them. I loved how unabashedly these characters just are. They might not talk to each other about important things or share much about themselves, but they are always being themselves.

The writing is wonderful and hilarious. I laughed aloud enough to feel satisfaction and joy, and had to share a few choice extracts with my partner (who humoured me kindly). This might be my favourite deWitt novel yet. Maybe. Just thinking about certain parts and quotes now have me huffing more laughter. But for all its humour, there was depth and emotion to the story and the characters. They throw money around and live it up, but it’s very much at the expense of thinking about things and allowing themselves to feel too much.

I’m certain i can’t recommend this book enough, and deWitt certainly can’t write his next book quick enough.

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About Wendleberry
I'm odd.

3 Responses to French Exit

  1. Excellent! I love DeWitt’s writing and this sounds just as good as his others.

  2. Pingback: 2018 End of Year Book Survey | Marvel At Words

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