Finalist, Scotiabank Giller Prize
Finalist, Oregon Book Awards: Ken Kesey Award for Fiction
Finalist, Forest of Reading Evergreen Award
Longlist, International Dublin Literary Award
A Globe and Mail Book of the Year
A Quill & Quire Book of the Year
A Chatelaine Book of the Year
A Now Magazine Book of the Year
An Amazon.com Best Book of the Month
A New York Public Library Best Book of the Year
A Book of the Year
Frances Price — tart widow, possessive mother, and Upper East Side force of nature — is in dire straits, beset by scandal and impending bankruptcy. Her adult son Malcolm is no help, mired in a permanent state of arrested development. And then there’s the Price’s aging cat, Small Frank, who Frances believes houses the spirit of her late husband, an infamously immoral litigator and world-class cad whose gruesome tabloid death rendered Frances and Malcolm social outcasts.
Putting penury and pariahdom behind them, the family decides to cut their losses and head for the exit. One ocean voyage later, the curious trio land in their beloved Paris, the City of Light serving as a backdrop not for love or romance, but self-destruction and economic ruin — to riotous effect. A number of singular characters serve to round out the cast: a bashful private investigator, an aimless psychic proposing a seance, a doctor who makes house calls with his wine merchant in tow, and the inimitable Mme. Reynard, aggressive houseguest and dementedly 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, as well as a moving mother/son caper which only Patrick deWitt could conceive and execute.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Evoking Henry James' bittersweet novels of social disaster and P.G. Wodehouse's riotous comedies, French Exit had us howling with laughter and full-on cringing, often on the same page. Frozen out of Manhattan society following her husband's scandalous death, no-nonsense widow Frances Price uproots her coddled adult son and resourceful cat for a fresh start in Paris. As the trio’s new life quickly turns both farcical and tragic, the cracks in their once-glamorous façade become impossible to ignore. Just as in his comic western The Sisters Brothers, Patrick DeWitt shows enormous sympathy for his flawed characters.
In this entertaining novel (subtitled a "tragedy of manners") that lampoons the one percent, deWitt (The Sisters Brothers) follows the financial misfortune of wealthy widow Frances Price, a magnetic and caustic 60-something New Yorker who has spent most of the fortune her late lawyer husband amassed defending the indefensible. Insolvency comes as a shock to Frances despite repeated warnings her financial adviser about her extravagant lifestyle. She reluctantly accepts an offer to occupy a friend's Parisian flat and sets sail with her rakish, lovesick son, Malcolm; her house cat, Small Frank; and her last 170,000. On board, she concocts a secret plan to spend every penny, while Malcolm befriends a medium who can see the dying (they're green). In Paris, the book finds its surest footing, as Small Frank flees and a lonely neighbor connects Frances to a doctor, his wine merchant, and a private eye, who locates the medium to contact the cat, who may hold some secrets. The love of Malcolm's life and her dim-witted fianc also arrive, as does the owner of the now extremely crowded flat. DeWitt's novel is full of vibrant characters taking good-natured jabs at cultural tropes; readers will be delighted.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Started well but fizzled out
Perhaps I do not understand the genre that DeWitt was apparently emulating here but where the book was fascinating in its development of characters and setting in the first half I found myself losing interest after the revelation about Frances’ cat. I was also morbidly put off by Malcolm and couldn’t imagine anyone loving such a louse as him.
I liked this the least of the three DeWitt books I have read. It had the same sound but less timbre. It was more like a lighter weight Oscar Wilde play. Hard to pin down. But I so enjoyed the Undermajor and the Sisters Brothers and this to me was a weak replay.
Could be his best