- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: HARPER COLLINS USA (28 August 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062846922
- ISBN-13: 978-0062846921
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.3 x 21 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 363 g
- Customer Reviews: 210 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 123,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
FRENCH EXIT Hardcover – 28 August 2018
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"Imposing widow Frances Price and her grown son Malcolm go from wealthy to broke and from Manhattan to Paris in this smart, tartly funny novel."--People
"A sparkling dark comedy.... DeWitt's tone is breezy, droll, and blithely transgressive.... These are people you may not want to invite to dinner, but they sure make for fun reading."--NPR
"A cross between a Feydeau farce (fitting, given that the location of most of the novel is Paris) and a Buñuel film, as one after another in an eccentric cast of characters is introduced.... DeWitt is in possession of a fresh, lively voice that surprises at every turn."--Kate Atkinson, Vanity Fair
"[DeWitt] creates and conveys entire worlds -- and not just names and places, but colors, smells, sounds and style.... Incredibly entertaining and oddly sympathetic.... And snappy stage-worthy dialogue -- deWitt's wheelhouse."--Eugene Register-Guard
"A modern story, a satire about an insouciant widow on a quest for refined self-immolation.... DeWitt's surrealism is cheerful and matter-of-fact, making the novel feel as buoyantly insane as its characters.... DeWitt is a stealth absurdist, with a flair for dressing up rhyme as reason."--The New Yorker
"Darkly comic.... French Exit is both a satiric send-up of high society and a wilding mother-son caper."--Poets & Writers
"Darkly comic, perfectly brilliant... Let deWitt take you along on this dizzying, wild ride, you'll love every second of it, and then hop back to the beginning for another go. It's worth the trip." --Nylon Magazine
"Hilarious... Delightful.... In his book, as in [Edith] Wharton's, New Yorkers' wit and elaborate manners cannot hide the searing depth of their pain.... DeWitt is aiming for farce and to say something about characters who cannot get out of their own way, and he achieves both with élan."--Minneapolis Star Tribune
"I will read every book Patrick deWitt writes.... He casts black humor and surrealist streaks of magic onto familiar literary terrains. French Exit's Manhattan milieu evokes midcentury writers like Salinger and Cheever.... DeWitt's writing is always intriguingly off-center."--Poets & Writers
From the Back Cover
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 Prices' 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 Lights 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 séance, a doctor who makes house calls with his wine merchant in tow, and the inimitable Mme Reynard, aggressive houseguest and dementedly friendly American expat.
Bestselling author Patrick deWitt has returned with a darkly comic novel, a one-of-a-kind "tragedy of manners." Brimming with pathos, French Exit is a brilliant send-up of high society, as well as a moving mother-son caper that only deWitt could conceive and execute.
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This seems to me to be about death and money, but mostly about death and reminds me a little of Muriel Spark's The Driver's Seat. It features a fabulously rude dowager and her enslaved passive son, and a particularly strong supporting cast, most of whom gather together at the end in a farcical party like something from a Marx Brothers film, where, instead of cracking jokes (though there are plenty of good jokes in the book) they reflect on 'luck' or chance and fate, as a party game.
deWitt calls it a tragedy of manners, but, as there are few manners on display, I would prefer to consider it what Penelope Fitzgerald called - perhaps what she considered life to be and not just a particular literary genre - a tragi-farce, and a very good one too.
I have to come up with 12 more words. Will this do?
Genre : Contemporary Family Drama
Cover : 3.5 ***
Rating : 3.5 ***
French Exit is the story of Frances and Malcolm Price - a rich, indolent aristocratic mother-son duo, who suddenly find that they are now destitute. The way they conduct themselves once they become aware of this fact is much the same as they would have done had nobody told them they had no more money. Frankly, it was impossible to feel any deep sympathy for either of them as they are portrayed as such cool and aloof people that it seems unlikely that they would wish for any friendships or pity or any such sentiment from other ordinary mortals.
On being told by their solicitor that they have no more money, they decamp to France to live in the Parisian apartment of one of Frances’ oldest and possibly only friend. Here they are also accompanied by their cat, Small Frank, who they believe is the carrier of the soul of the now long-dead Husband/Father Price. If one thought this was weird, the author just manages to make matters worse by telling us skeptical non-believers that this superstition on their part is actually true! In their Paris apartment they also begin accumulating live-in’s of all varieties ranging from a widowed old lady, a shy detective, a psychic, a wine seller and so on. All these people essentially move in with Frances and Malcolm without ever telling them that they are doing so or either of them objecting to it.
When you read such stories, it is impossible not to try and imagine whether there actually exist people like this. And the world has so many that it is entirely possible that these characters are very much real somewhere. I liked Malcolm but still it was not possible to push him out of his inertia or what I perceived as his somnolent outlook towards life to do anything that his mother does not allow him to do. He does show some sparks of feelings in one or two pages but those bits are like lightening and almost lost in the blink of an eye. At the conclusion of the book I was seriously wondering how he would go on with is life and what will he do to survive now that he has no money – will he be able to work for a living? Will his girlfriend have to feed and take care of him? Will he manage to show some initiative at all?
The way the author ends the book is in fact a perfect ending as the reader realizes that was exactly where things were headed. Frances was almost on this spiritual journey that could only have culminated where it did. The title of the book also finally made sense at the very end as I would say it refers to the dramatic exits that actors make from stage and probably have names for like the Shakespere Exit say
The writing style is very easy to absorb and move on fast and it is almost possible to miss some of the brilliant one-liners that the author has come up with in the narrative. In fact, I was tempted to check once or twice whether those were original quotes or had been picked up from somewhere else. Didn’t do it eventually. However, I take exception to the blurbs that describe the book as witty and funny. It was hardly that by any stretch of the imagination. Having grown up on Woodhouse and other great British wits, this book falls way short of that descriptive tag for me at least.
At best, it can be described as a tragic-comedy or a dark comedy, but it is certainly not outright funny at any point. Everyone is sad and staying that way for most of the time in the story. Still I found myself enjoying it in a way and turning the pages rapidly enough. I do think I will like it more on a second reading, but when that will happen is not clear yet.