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From bestselling author Patrick deWitt, a brilliant and darkly comic novel about a wealthy widow and her adult son who flee New York for Paris in the wake of scandal and financial disintegration 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, From bestselling author Patrick deWitt, a brilliant and darkly comic novel about a wealthy widow and her adult son who flee New York for Paris in the wake of scandal and financial disintegration 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 Light serving as a backdrop not for love or romance, but self destruction and economical 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


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From bestselling author Patrick deWitt, a brilliant and darkly comic novel about a wealthy widow and her adult son who flee New York for Paris in the wake of scandal and financial disintegration 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, From bestselling author Patrick deWitt, a brilliant and darkly comic novel about a wealthy widow and her adult son who flee New York for Paris in the wake of scandal and financial disintegration 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 Light serving as a backdrop not for love or romance, but self destruction and economical 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

30 review for French Exit

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jaline

    This novel is unbelievable. The family, (father, mother son), are unbelievably dysfunctional. Their story is unbelievable. There is a cat in this story who is unbelievable. Their lives in New York and then later in Paris are comprised of unbelievable bits of the present day (including unbelievable friends and would-be friends) mingled with unbelievable jaunts down memory lane. Somehow, Patrick de Witt takes all of this unbelievability, wraps it up into a story, and I read it with complete believa This novel is unbelievable. The family, (father, mother son), are unbelievably dysfunctional. Their story is unbelievable. There is a cat in this story who is unbelievable. Their lives in New York and then later in Paris are comprised of unbelievable bits of the present day (including unbelievable friends and would-be friends) mingled with unbelievable jaunts down memory lane. Somehow, Patrick de Witt takes all of this unbelievability, wraps it up into a story, and I read it with complete believability. I have no idea how that happened, but it did. I enjoyed this short novel a great deal, and it passed one of my biggest tests: “Did I think about this novel, these characters, and their stories when I was doing things other than reading?” Yes, I did.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    3.5 Original, inventive, absurdist, all of these descriptions and more would be fitting. Wasn't quite sure where, in my head, to put this book, let alone how to come up with a rating. Generally, I rate like grnres with like genres, but this one seems to have an identity of its own. What a strange tale with some very unique characters, and a very unusual cat. A satirical comedy of manners and errors, if you will. Maybe I was just in the mood for this, but I enjoyed this quirky little albeit unbeli 3.5 Original, inventive, absurdist, all of these descriptions and more would be fitting. Wasn't quite sure where, in my head, to put this book, let alone how to come up with a rating. Generally, I rate like grnres with like genres, but this one seems to have an identity of its own. What a strange tale with some very unique characters, and a very unusual cat. A satirical comedy of manners and errors, if you will. Maybe I was just in the mood for this, but I enjoyed this quirky little albeit unbelievable story. It wasn't meant to be believed, but it does have some truisims within that were noted. This author is a master at dialogue, even when it was out there, way, way out there, the dislogue seemed totally natural. Some of these scenes I just found so darn amusing, had to reread them again, sometimes they seemed to just appear out of nowhere. So without rehashing plot, which is kind of impossible anyway, I'll just say I enjoyed this. Not the ending so much, but definitely the getting there. So, if you're in the mood for something different and entertaining, give it a shot. ARC from Netgalley.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Larry H

    Frances Price has never really given a damn about what people think. A wealthy widow, she looks down on nearly everyone with whom she comes into contact (except Joan, her best friend since childhood). She and her adult son, Malcolm, live in an aging apartment on the Upper East Side and spend money indiscriminately, despite multiple warnings of increasing intensity from their financial advisor. One day, Frances is told that she is on the verge of losing everything, and she must sell off all the po Frances Price has never really given a damn about what people think. A wealthy widow, she looks down on nearly everyone with whom she comes into contact (except Joan, her best friend since childhood). She and her adult son, Malcolm, live in an aging apartment on the Upper East Side and spend money indiscriminately, despite multiple warnings of increasing intensity from their financial advisor. One day, Frances is told that she is on the verge of losing everything, and she must sell off all the possessions she can if she is to have any money left to live on. She decides her only recourse is to cash her remaining funds into Euros and spend the rest of her days in Joan's unused Paris apartment. Despite being engaged—although his relationship, like much of his life, is in a state of arrested development—Malcolm prepares to head to Paris with his mother, and they also bring Small Frank, the Prices' cat, whom Frances is convinced contains the spirit of her late husband, an immoral and unethical lawyer. The trio make their way to France on a cruise ship and find themselves in the midst of a few strange encounters. And when they arrive in Paris, although their financial situation is somewhat dire, Frances doesn't seem too concerned, and treats much of her time as an adventure. But ultimately, Frances has an exit strategy, and nothing can dissuade her from carrying out her final plans, not the disapproval of her husband/cat, nor Joan's concerned appearance in Paris. Frances and Malcolm begin befriending a motley crew of Parisians, who take up residence in Joan's apartment, which becomes even more crowded with the arrival of more unexpected guests from New York. Hijinks ensue, and for the first time, Malcolm is awakened from his doldrums and forced to act. But ultimately, this is a quirky, wry commentary on what it's like to have and have not, and the interesting relationship between mothers and sons. This was an interesting book, because there was a balance of introspection, character development, farce, and tragedy, and I wasn't sure exactly what Patrick deWitt really wanted us to feel. deWitt does zany well—his first book, The Sisters Brothers is a western of sorts with more than a healthy dose of quirk, and while I didn't read his second book, I heard it was something similar. I read this entire book on a plane so it was definitely entertaining, just a little bizarre. If you're not a fan of books that get pretty quirky and treat serious topics in a lighthearted way, you're probably wise to steer clear of French Exit . Otherwise, it's an enjoyable read, although a little frustrating, and it paints an interesting portrait of a mother and son who need each other more than they'll care to admit. See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com, or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2017.html.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dem

    Did you ever read a book that was so bad but you had to get to the end just incase someone would say to you “ Ah! But the ending made the book...shame you missed it” Well, the beginning, the middle or the end couldn't save this one from the one star rating. I have read The Sisters Brothers by this author and while I didn't love it, I did like it, as it was quirky and well written. French Exit was was recommended to me for it’s wit and caustic sense of humor and if you are into that style of Did you ever read a book that was so bad but you had to get to the end just incase someone would say to you “ Ah! But the ending made the book...shame you missed it” Well, the beginning, the middle or the end couldn't save this one from the one star rating. I have read The Sisters Brothers by this author and while I didn't love it, I did like it, as it was quirky and well written. French Exit was was recommended to me for it’s wit and caustic sense of humor and if you are into that style of story then perhaps this is going to work for you but it certainly was a painful, farcical and daft novel for me that had no likability factor to it. The characters were so dislikable and ridiculously portrayed that I just couldn’t care less how they fared out. A social comedy where the characters of Frances and Malcolm take centre stage. Frances Price is in dire straits. Scandal swirls around the recently widowed New York Socialite, and her adult-aged, toddler-brained son Malcom is no help. So the pair head on an adventure to Paris with their cat Small Frank. A self indulgent novel that was trying to hard to impress and one that will defiantly go quick smart to the recycle book bank for fear it would contaminate my five star real life bookshelf

  5. 5 out of 5

    Esil

    I loved Patrick de Witt’s Undermajordomo Minor. It was completely quirky and weird, but seriously turned my crank. Unfortunately, while French Exit has a similar oddball sensibility, this one fell quite flat for me. The story focuses on mother Frances and adult son Malcolm. As the story opens in New York, Frances learns that all her money is lost, after which she and Malcolm move to a friend’s apartment in Paris, where a number of people drift into their world. De Witt writes beautifully. I love I loved Patrick de Witt’s Undermajordomo Minor. It was completely quirky and weird, but seriously turned my crank. Unfortunately, while French Exit has a similar oddball sensibility, this one fell quite flat for me. The story focuses on mother Frances and adult son Malcolm. As the story opens in New York, Frances learns that all her money is lost, after which she and Malcolm move to a friend’s apartment in Paris, where a number of people drift into their world. De Witt writes beautifully. I love his use of language which has a deadpan oddball feel. I didn’t even mind some of the surreal elements to the story – a dead father channeled through a cat as just one example. But ultimately the story didn’t really engage me. I wasn’t particularly charmed by the characters or interested in their fate. And the story felt somewhat aimless – like a collection of odd events rather than a whole that came together. It looks like de Witt is hit or miss for me – I didn’t much care for The Sisters Brothers but loved Undermajordomo Minor. That’s ok. Given the quality of his writing, I’ll keep giving him a chance. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    Sixtysomething Manhattan socialite Frances, her 32 year old son Malcolm and their cat, Small Frank, live a relaxed life – until the family fortune runs out. Suddenly homeless, they head to Paris, France, to stay in a wealthy friend’s apartment where destiny awaits… Oui - Patrick deWitt’s latest novel French Exit is tres bonne! It’s this pleasingly bizarre comedy about nutters that reads uncannily like a Wes Anderson movie by way of Arrested Development. I read the book with Lucille and Buster Bl Sixtysomething Manhattan socialite Frances, her 32 year old son Malcolm and their cat, Small Frank, live a relaxed life – until the family fortune runs out. Suddenly homeless, they head to Paris, France, to stay in a wealthy friend’s apartment where destiny awaits… Oui - Patrick deWitt’s latest novel French Exit is tres bonne! It’s this pleasingly bizarre comedy about nutters that reads uncannily like a Wes Anderson movie by way of Arrested Development. I read the book with Lucille and Buster Bluth in my mind as Frances and Malcolm as their characters/relationship are almost identical: Frances, the domineering, constantly-squiffy elderly mother used to a life of pampered luxury, and Malcolm, the hapless, coddled thirtysomething man-child, bumbling through life, content to be steered by his ma (though he doesn’t have Buster’s hook-hand!). And even though you could call French Exit derivative in that regard, deWitt’s execution is so perfect and so much fun to read, I couldn’t care less – not least as I love Wes Anderson and Arrested Development! The novel would have benefitted from an overarching plot as its directionlessness allowed for a lot of stagnation once all the characters had congregated in the Parisian apartment and the story noticeably slowed at a time – the final act – when it should be building to a climax. That and the surprisingly grim and underwhelming finale were the only aspects I disliked. I suppose the ending lives up to the title but it still felt like an awkward fit tonally for an otherwise breezy read. I was just hoping for something more imaginative and subversive. Otherwise, there’s nothing but good stuff to revel in! The cast are a delightfully eccentric bunch, the dialogue is consistently funny, almost every scene is amusing, and the overall effect is a charming and playful read. I also loved the well-calculated element of fantasy deWitt introduced into the story with the reveal of Small Frank’s secret, displaying a refreshingly carefree lack of confinement to genre, and his subtle but pointed refusal to explain it thereafter. French Exit is a barrel of ohoho fun. Anyone who likes Wes Anderson’s movies, Arrested Development, PG Wodehouse’s novels, and A Confederacy of Dunces, will have a blast with this one. And despite those comparisons, Patrick deWitt has crafted a beast distinctly his own. He’s done it again – this guy can’t write a bad book!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kelly (and the Book Boar)

    Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ “What’s the opposite of a miracle?” Frances sat upright in her bed. “How many letters?” As soon as I started French Exit it seemed very familiar to me. I went perusing my friends’ reviews and discovered Sam had experienced the same sort of déjà vu . . . . And that should be enough to let you know if you want to take a roll of this dice with this one. There are no “sort of” Wes Anderson fans (and if anyone tries to tell you they Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ “What’s the opposite of a miracle?” Frances sat upright in her bed. “How many letters?” As soon as I started French Exit it seemed very familiar to me. I went perusing my friends’ reviews and discovered Sam had experienced the same sort of déjà vu . . . . And that should be enough to let you know if you want to take a roll of this dice with this one. There are no “sort of” Wes Anderson fans (and if anyone tries to tell you they “kinda” like his movies you should (1) ask them to name three of them as a test and (2) then cut them out of your life before they tell you a lie that’s actually harmful). The story here is of Frances, her son Malcolm and a little fella called Small Frank. Frances and Malcolm have lived high on the hog in the Upper East Side forever, but are being forced to change their lifestyle due to lack of funds . . . . “What did you think was going to happen? What was your plan?” “My plan was to die before the money ran out. But I kept and keep not dying, and here I am.” This is a book that will constantly have you saying . . . . But, if you’re like me, in the best way imaginable. Sam’s review points out that Frances and Malcolm may remind readers of another impossible-not-to-love mother and son duo . . . . Which is pretty spot on. I can’t tell you who I think would like this book. I just know I did . . . . (And the fact that Sam did is pretty much like seeing a unicorn in real life so you might want to add it to the ol’ TBR just in case.)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

    I’d enjoyed The Sisters Brothers though not as much as many readers had. Perhaps this new offering from deWitt would charm we in a way that his Western novel had failed to? The story of a dysfunctional relationship between an unpleasant mother and her very odd son (not to mention the deceased father who may now be living within the body of the pet cat) is a very strange offering indeed. Wealthy widower Frances Price had gained notoriety – and social exclusion – as a result of her having discover I’d enjoyed The Sisters Brothers though not as much as many readers had. Perhaps this new offering from deWitt would charm we in a way that his Western novel had failed to? The story of a dysfunctional relationship between an unpleasant mother and her very odd son (not to mention the deceased father who may now be living within the body of the pet cat) is a very strange offering indeed. Wealthy widower Frances Price had gained notoriety – and social exclusion – as a result of her having discovered her husband’s lifeless body in the marital bed and then instead of notifying the appropriate authorities choosing to chase of to the ski slopes for the weekend. Very soon she’d picked up her son from the boarding school, in which he’d been imprisoned by the selfish mother and her even more self-centred husband, and launched into a self destructive spending spree. When the cash ran out she took the only option available which was to abscond to Paris where she set herself and her son up in a borrowed flat. There’s a bit more to this comedy of manners than that but, in truth, not a lot more. I suppose the attraction for some will be in the way the author ruthlessly satirises high society and it’s fair to say that it does have a sprinkling of clever lines and funny moments. But it all fell somewhat flat for me – I just couldn’t find it within me to get excited or even care about what happened to this implausible pair. I did manage to drag my way to the book’s conclusion, but only just. It’s an absurd and surreal novel that will, I’m sure, be a hit with some readers – but unfortunately not me. My thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tucker

    Patrick deWitt has the remarkable ability to write brilliantly in different genres whether the fairy tale of “Undermajordomo Minor,” the western of “The Sisters Brothers,” or in his most recent book “French Exit,” a comedy of manners. The abundant wit, satire, and skewering of the wealthy made this an entertaining read, but the infusion of death throughout the book detracted from what I anticipated based on the book’s subtitle. I appreciate dark humor, but at times it seemed to weigh down the sh Patrick deWitt has the remarkable ability to write brilliantly in different genres whether the fairy tale of “Undermajordomo Minor,” the western of “The Sisters Brothers,” or in his most recent book “French Exit,” a comedy of manners. The abundant wit, satire, and skewering of the wealthy made this an entertaining read, but the infusion of death throughout the book detracted from what I anticipated based on the book’s subtitle. I appreciate dark humor, but at times it seemed to weigh down the sheer delight of the book. Still, it’s definitely worth reading for the smart and sophisticated humor, sparkling dialogue, the wonderful major and minor characters deWitt creates, and his ability to write so convincingly from a woman’s point of view.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Carol (Bookaria)

    I learned about FRENCH EXIT through Buzz Books (Publishers Lunch). If you are not familiar with them, Buzz Books issues monthly publications where they list by category most books coming out that month, and also include a list of book excerpts from the list. I read the first chapter and was drawn by the writing and sharp dialogue. After living a comfortable and wealthy lifestyle, Frances Price and her son, Malcolm, find themselves completely broke and without a home. Thanks to Frances’ lifelong fr I learned about FRENCH EXIT through Buzz Books (Publishers Lunch). If you are not familiar with them, Buzz Books issues monthly publications where they list by category most books coming out that month, and also include a list of book excerpts from the list. I read the first chapter and was drawn by the writing and sharp dialogue. After living a comfortable and wealthy lifestyle, Frances Price and her son, Malcolm, find themselves completely broke and without a home. Thanks to Frances’ lifelong friend, Joan, they will be able to move into her Paris apartment and avoid homelessness. Along with their cat, Small Frank, they embark on a transatlantic ship and head to their new residence. What follows is a humorous and amusing journey. I loved the dialogue, witticisms, and absurd scenes. The beginning was strong but I felt by the end the story had lost a bit of its footing. Still, the strength of the novel lies in its characters. Overall, I enjoyed it and recommend it to readers of contemporary fiction.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Would you like to read a laugh-out-loud funny, lighthearted, smart, sassy, somewhat dark and weird and fantastical novel that will take you completely away from current events and make you feel like you're eating birthday cake all day long, only now birthday cake is somehow good for you? That's this novel. Also, I would like to read an essay about how THE SISTERS BROTHERS is a Coen brothers movie and this one is a Wes Anderson movie. Would you like to read a laugh-out-loud funny, lighthearted, smart, sassy, somewhat dark and weird and fantastical novel that will take you completely away from current events and make you feel like you're eating birthday cake all day long, only now birthday cake is somehow good for you? That's this novel. Also, I would like to read an essay about how THE SISTERS BROTHERS is a Coen brothers movie and this one is a Wes Anderson movie.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Peter Boyle

    Oh dear. I'd consider myself a big Patrick deWitt fan, having adored The Sisters Brothers and Undermajordomo Minor. But little of his famed wit and ingenuity is present in his latest novel. It has a cast of peculiar characters and a story that just goes nowhere. Frances Price is a wealthy 65-year-old New Yorker, a sharp-tongued widower who doesn't suffer fools gladly. Living with her in a luxurious apartment is her brooding son Malcolm ("a lugubrious toddler of a man") and their cat Small Frank, Oh dear. I'd consider myself a big Patrick deWitt fan, having adored The Sisters Brothers and Undermajordomo Minor. But little of his famed wit and ingenuity is present in his latest novel. It has a cast of peculiar characters and a story that just goes nowhere. Frances Price is a wealthy 65-year-old New Yorker, a sharp-tongued widower who doesn't suffer fools gladly. Living with her in a luxurious apartment is her brooding son Malcolm ("a lugubrious toddler of a man") and their cat Small Frank, in whom, Frances believes, the soul of her late husband resides. Money problems force the trio to move to Paris and on the journey, Frances decides to blow the rest of her fortune. In France they encounter some more unusual people, and the disappearance of Small Frank gives this unlikely bunch a mystery to solve. I found French Exit a chore to finish, to be quite honest. It's all well and good to create eccentric, lively characters but it's a terrible shame that they are given nothing interesting to do. And just what is the point of the novel? Is it a satire of the one percent? If so, it is not nearly as funny or as caustic as it should be. There are some poignant moments towards the end when Frances and Malcolm reveal what they really think of one another, but it's not enough to salvage this aimless tale. Disappointing.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    As with Dewitt’s delightful “Sisters Brothers”, we are treated again to quirky people in a minimalist, absurdist plot. This one wasn’t quite as zany, or as serious either. Still, it’s a fast read and left me with an amusing sense of an ensemble cast of simulacra strutting their stuff as partial people and, then, inevitably winding down. Our puppet people include the elderly golddigger Francis Price and her thirty-something son Malcolm, who are living the high life as residents on Manhattan’s Upp As with Dewitt’s delightful “Sisters Brothers”, we are treated again to quirky people in a minimalist, absurdist plot. This one wasn’t quite as zany, or as serious either. Still, it’s a fast read and left me with an amusing sense of an ensemble cast of simulacra strutting their stuff as partial people and, then, inevitably winding down. Our puppet people include the elderly golddigger Francis Price and her thirty-something son Malcolm, who are living the high life as residents on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in the long wake of the demise of the plutocrat father. Now the money has run out and Frances takes the opportunity of an exit to Paris, where they are offered a place to stay by a wealth friend. Malcolm is so tied to his mother’s challenging upkeep that he abandons his fiancé. On the cruise over they collect into their circle a jaded seer who does a convincing séance to communicate with the soul of the angry dead husband somehow inhabiting the odd cat they’ve smuggled from NYC. In Paris, the mother and son do a great performance as the “ugly Americans.” A neighbor woman who is a fellow American ex-pat worms her way into their life, mostly on the strength of her cooking. A bit of a goose who is not up to their snobbish cultural standards and too prudish for their predatory sexuality, but nonetheless a balm as a sycophant. Soon another joins their circle, a detective Francis has hired to find the cat when it goes missing. The spiritualist falls on hard times and is invited to stay. I loved the scenes of social entertainment among the five during evening drinking bouts when each is supposed to perform using their special talent. Most end up just telling a tale about their lives, which ends up being more revealing and honest than they can readily accommodate. A bit of a head scratcher when it comes to an answer what the “book is about.” I would say it’s a bit of a parable about how we need other people to become whole, especially in this modern time of broken families and corrupted values. And if you are playful enough and ready to takes risks you can find some complementarity or a virtual family for awhile with others.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ace

    I don't really enjoy humour in books, and unlike some other readers, I didn't think there was anything funny or believable about this book. I've gained nothing from my experience and am surprised I actually finished it. I don't really enjoy humour in books, and unlike some other readers, I didn't think there was anything funny or believable about this book. I've gained nothing from my experience and am surprised I actually finished it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    “I ran from one brightly burning disaster to the next, pal. That’s the way I was. Possibly you won’t like to think of your mother as one who lived, but I’ll tell you something: it’s fun to run from one brightly burning disaster to the next.” This is a comic novel about disasters and despair, a raised middle finger to existential angst, a character study of a remarkable woman that refuses to go quietly into the Big Nothing. “They broke the mold with that one.” exclaim the people who meet France “I ran from one brightly burning disaster to the next, pal. That’s the way I was. Possibly you won’t like to think of your mother as one who lived, but I’ll tell you something: it’s fun to run from one brightly burning disaster to the next.” This is a comic novel about disasters and despair, a raised middle finger to existential angst, a character study of a remarkable woman that refuses to go quietly into the Big Nothing. “They broke the mold with that one.” exclaim the people who meet Frances Price, even as she is insulting them in French. Frances is a literal firebrand* on the New York social scene, infamous for an incident involving a dead husband and a ski vacation. * burning her parent’s house at the age of ten or so was her first act of emancipation that set the tongues of society ladies wagging. The elderly Frances, accompanied by her obese, introverted son Malcolm, is still invited to some of the best mansions in the city, mostly for the scandal value of her presence and for her loose tongue, but lately she doesn’t seem to be enjoying the role of agent provocateur. Frances’s concern was existential; she lately found herself mired in an eerie feeling, as one standing with her back to the ocean. When the vast fortune left behind by her parents and by her husband Franklin, dead of a heart attack in their bedroom, is finally spirited away by Frances’ extravagant spending, mother and son are forced to sell everything not nailed down in their New York apartment and flee. Fond memories of past visits and the offer of free accommodation in an apartment owned by her friend Joan inspire Frances to buy two transatlantic tickets of a ship to France. But how long would their nest egg last there? What exactly is Frances planning for the future? How is Malcolm, who is completely dominated by the personality of his mother, deal with the change and with the facts of life? And what will happen with their old cat Small Frank, who Frances believes hosts the reincarnated spirit of her dead husband? >>><<<>>><<< Patrick deWitt is an acquired taste. He doesn’t make it easy for the reader who needs to pay attention to details and to gloss over the often absurd, illogical plot twists in the stories. It also helps if the same reader enjoys gallows humour and word play. Witness for example a parlour game a game called Dictionary, whereby a player assigns an incorrect definition to an unknown word in hopes of fooling other players. (the secateur was the saboteur’s assistant; costalgia was a shared reminiscence, remotion was a lateral promotion; polonaise was an outmoded British condiment fabricated from a horse’s marrow; a puncheon was a contentious luncheon; a syrt was a Syrian breath mint; and so on ...) The patient reader is ultimately rewarded with a clever story that has more depth, more reach than the shocking, provocative surface details would suggest at first glance. Getting old is not a pleasant experience as Life has a habit of dealing some hard punches even in the faces of the beautiful and the moneyed. Some, like Malcolm, turn themselves inward like hedgehogs, hoping that misfortune will pass them by or that somebody else will always be there to take care of the problems. He described himself as an avid swimmer but Susan found he did not swim so much as float; he did not wish to exercise, but to experience submersion and wetness. Others, like Frances, fight back tooth and nail to remain true to their own vision of what life should be about. Yet, the same Frances doesn’t make it very easy for the reader to cast a sympathetic eye at her depression. Her asperity and her profligate spending are deliberate, calculated to deliver stinging insults and to flaunt the money she inherited. “I don’t think that there’s anything so comforting as quite a lot of money, don’t you agree with me?” “I wouldn’t know.” “Try it sometime and tell me if it isn’t just the thing to chase your blues away.” It’s not easy to look behind this formidable facade Frances puts on each morning as she prepares to greet a hostile world. Her true confessions come in rare conversations with Malcolm and with people she meets by chance in Paris : the scatter-brained Mme Reynaud, a gipsy fortune-teller on the transatlantic ship, a homeless immigrant on a bench in a park, her friend Joan, her son’s fiancee Susan, a freelance private detective. Now, so many years later, Joan was the only one Frances could be herself with, though this isn’t accurately stated since it wasn’t as if Frances suddenly unleashed her hidden being once Joan arrived. Let it be said instead that she did, in Joan’s company, become a person she was only with Joan – a person she liked becoming. Joan had many friends, but beyond Malcolm, Frances had only Joan. I suspect, even if it’s not clearly stated in the book, that Frances doesn’t like the kind of person she has become, and that she secretly blames the money she inherited and the social circle she has been a member of all her life for her current predicament. Her French Exit is maybe the path she needs to follow if she wants to remain true to the young girl who became a friend to Joan, if she wants to help Malcolm become self-reliant, if she wants to acknowledge the new people she met in Paris. >>><<<>>><<< I have saved three possible endings for my review and I am still undecided which one is a better fit. Patrick deWitt, as I mentioned before, doesn’t make it easier for the reader. Real life is not as clear cut and logical as fiction, and my take on the meaning of the title and on the personality of the lead character are just personal impressions left behind after I turned the last page. “What’s the opposite of a miracle?” asks Frances after she witnesses an incident with a bird and an immigrant in the park. My take on this is that you should not spend your life waiting and hoping for some stroke of good luck. You should accept the bad things and make the best of what you have : your intelligence, your health, the people who are important to you. Mme Reynard, for all her clinging, needy and vulgar personality says it even better : “I believe friendship is a greater force for good than any religion ever was, don’t you agree?” And finally, with the risk of including some spoilers in my review, we all need to make our peace with past, and face the facts of life: ‘But are not all Facts Dreams as soon as we put them behind us – ‘ [Emily Dickinson]

  16. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    French exit Noun. French exit (offensive) A hasty exit made without saying farewells to anybody. I have been a fan of Patrick deWitt's from the beginning, and I believe I've read everything he's written; joyfully revelling in his ink-black, violent comedies. I was, therefore, rapturously delighted to have been sent an ARC – months early – of his latest, and so doubly disappointed when it turned out to be just okay. French Exit begins on a promising note – with a smart-talking Upper East Side widow French exit Noun. French exit (offensive) A hasty exit made without saying farewells to anybody. I have been a fan of Patrick deWitt's from the beginning, and I believe I've read everything he's written; joyfully revelling in his ink-black, violent comedies. I was, therefore, rapturously delighted to have been sent an ARC – months early – of his latest, and so doubly disappointed when it turned out to be just okay. French Exit begins on a promising note – with a smart-talking Upper East Side widow browbeating her squishy manchild of a thirty-six-year-old son and ignoring the debts piling up at the door – and once the action moves to Paris, and the mother and son somehow can't prevent a whole slew of odd characters from moving into their small apartment with them, I thought, “Oooh, a French farce, how perfect.” But it's not: it's not perfect, and it's not a drawing room farce; it's just some unhappy people trying – and failing – to make connections, with a bit of snappy repartee, a possessed cat, and a lot of alcohol. I gave four stars to Undermajordomo Minor and Ablutions, and if I hadn't read it before I joined Goodreads, I'd have definitely given The Sisters Brothers a full five, so I can't possible give this book more than three stars; deWitt just might be judged more harshly because I'm judging him against himself. (As I read an ARC, quotes used may not be in their final forms.) “It's important, Mr. Rudy, that you understand my point of view, and appreciate both the fact and scope of my nihilism. Now, you and I know that many of the objects in this house are of an uncommon quality. My effects represent a small fortune. Fifteen per cent of that, even in a hushed, rushed sale? Think of how many socks that would buy.” Mr. Rudy's eyelids dropped, and he became pensive. Frances said, “Now let's walk together, not speaking, to the front door.” Frances Price – still beautiful, feared, and admired at sixty-five – has been burning through her husband's money in the two decades since his death. With the bank threatening to take away everything she has left, Frances heeds her financial advisor's warning to sell what she can and skip town; make a French exit, as it were. Although her son, Malcolm, is engaged to a lovely and devoted woman, Frances insists that he accompany her to Paris, and Malcolm can't help but comply: ever since Frances pulled him out of boarding school upon his father's death when the boy was twelve, Malcolm has rarely left his mother's side. Many interesting things happen in the present, various characters tell weird stories from their pasts, and there are many scenes urging us to be kind to immigrants, the homeless, the deranged. This book has more scenes with people talking about their feelings and attempting to verbalise their personal philosophies than I remember from previous deWitts, and I'd say it suffers for it. On the other hand, deWitt hasn't lost his powers for the satisfying turn of phrase. Dr. Touche is “a sleepy-eyed and swarthy man with the hands of a female adolescent.” Ms Mackey was “a slender, melancholic woman of thirty-five with a gap in her front teeth and aching, pale blue eyes”. A night of impotence sees a couple regarding the man's penis, “a glum mushroom caving in on itself”. And, as ever, deWitt shines through his sparkling dialogue: Julius slept beside Mme Reynard on the couch, which was a foldout, she was delighted to discover. Tapping her chin, she warned Julius, “Talk in my sleep.” “That's all right.” “Also I gnash my teeth.” “All right.” “And I have sleep apnea, and sometimes I sleepwalk. If you see me set out to wander you musn't wake me. But if I try to leave the apartment, will you steer me back round?” “Okay.” Mme Reynard became sheepish. “Occasionally I suffer from nightsickness,” she admitted. “What's nightsickness?” “I sometimes – rarely – vomit the bed.” Julius said, “Sweet dreams, Mme Reynard.” “I never do dream,” she lamented. “Oh, life!” “Vomit the bed” for some reason made me snicker, so that was worthwhile. French Exit might mark a more mature style for deWitt – one in which the balance of tragicomedy tilts more towards the tragic – and it might well have been an intentional departure, but I didn't find it very satisfying.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Quann

    Update 1-Oct-2018: Giller Prize Shortlisted! I've long been a fan of deWitt's writing and his latest novel, French Exit, feels like it could have been written by no one other than him, but also feels like a move in a different direction from The Sisters Brothers and Undermajordomo Minor . DeWitt has always been funny, but French Exit is a comedy first and foremost. I was definitely getting in a good belly-laugh every 10 pages or so, and its rare that an author is able to deliver the goods Update 1-Oct-2018: Giller Prize Shortlisted! I've long been a fan of deWitt's writing and his latest novel, French Exit, feels like it could have been written by no one other than him, but also feels like a move in a different direction from The Sisters Brothers and Undermajordomo Minor . DeWitt has always been funny, but French Exit is a comedy first and foremost. I was definitely getting in a good belly-laugh every 10 pages or so, and its rare that an author is able to deliver the goods to consistently over an entire novel. Fellow reader Sam Quixote pointed out in his review of the novel that the book operates on a kindred wavelength to the films of Wes Anderson. I didn't see it so much at the start of my reading, but by the time the formerly-wealthy Prices make their journey across the Atlantic and the quirky cast began to expand, I was feeling the Andersonian-vibes. If you've read and enjoyed anything by Patrick DeWitt before, then you're going to love what he's cooked up this year. The ending felt a bit off-tone compared to the rest of the novel, which knocked it down a touch from the full-five stars, but in no way spoils the experience. French Exit was a book I was always happy to come back to, and one that I tried to spread out over multiple readings to extend my enjoyment. This is deWitt at his most absurd, funny, and irreverent. Even if it isn't my favourite of his three major works, French Exit stands out as the funniest of the bunch. Highly recommended! [4.5 Stars]

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sid Nuncius

    I’m afraid I didn’t get on with French Exit at all. It seems to me to be a novel which thinks a great deal of itself but adds up to very little. Frances, a wealthy, viciously bitchy, snobbish New York widow (Really? Again?) completely dominates her overweight, ineffectual son Malcolm, and destroys any other relationship he may develop (Really? Again?). Her financial profligacy means that she is reduced to the abject penury of her last few hundred thousand dollars, and her only (improbable) frien I’m afraid I didn’t get on with French Exit at all. It seems to me to be a novel which thinks a great deal of itself but adds up to very little. Frances, a wealthy, viciously bitchy, snobbish New York widow (Really? Again?) completely dominates her overweight, ineffectual son Malcolm, and destroys any other relationship he may develop (Really? Again?). Her financial profligacy means that she is reduced to the abject penury of her last few hundred thousand dollars, and her only (improbable) friend offers her use of a vacant apartment in Paris. This takes the best part of a hundred pages and although the book improves a bit in Paris, I simply couldn’t raise any interest in the story or its uninteresting and clichéd characters. We are told that Patrick deWitt is taking satirical jabs at his subjects, but to me it just felt like another uninteresting novel of New York’s rich – in whose lives the rest of the world ought to be hugely interested, apparently. Malcolm has a fiancé (well, any woman would fall in love with an obese, gauche, inarticulate man with some bizarre habits who is utterly dominated by his vile mother, wouldn’t she?) who at one point thinks, “The mother of the man she had accidentally fallen in love with did not approve of their union: this was so. But it was a common problem, wasn’t it? It was a trope.” Well, yes, it is, as is much of the rest of the book. The trouble is that none of it is much more than that. Oh, it’s “beautifully written” of course – but in that self-conscious “beautiful writing” way that makes it often seem tediously arch to me and sometimes downright mannered; the use of “this was so” in the little extract above, or “Malcolm was yet in his hotel room,” (“yet”?) for example. It just jars on me, seeming out of place in context and thoroughly self-regarding. French Exit has had some favourable reviews, but I found it to be dull, mannered and much of it was a struggle to get through. There have been some very fine novels involving New York’s rich; The Bonfire Of The Vanities, A Little Life and some others spring to mind, but this doesn’t have anywhere near their quality of satire or insight. I didn’t utterly hate it, but it was hard work and I really didn’t get much from it. I doubt whether I’ll bother with any more of Mr deWitt’s work. (My thanks to Bloomsbury for an ARC via NetGalley.)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anni

    French Exit (aka ‘ghosting’) is apparently a term meaning to leave a social situation without saying goodbye to the hosts - a particularly apt title for this novel with the New Yorker socialite protagonists decamping to Paris after being declared bankrupt. Although I am a big fan of black comedy, I found this rather a difficult one to engage with until I tuned into the author's wavelength. The dysfunctional mother and son relationship reminded me of JK Toole's 'Confederacy of Dunces', and de Witt French Exit (aka ‘ghosting’) is apparently a term meaning to leave a social situation without saying goodbye to the hosts - a particularly apt title for this novel with the New Yorker socialite protagonists decamping to Paris after being declared bankrupt. Although I am a big fan of black comedy, I found this rather a difficult one to engage with until I tuned into the author's wavelength. The dysfunctional mother and son relationship reminded me of JK Toole's 'Confederacy of Dunces', and de Witt's stylish prose is also reminiscent of Oscar Wilde. It's an old-fashioned tragi-comedy of manners and social commentary, with an absurdist plot and a cast of stock farce dramatis personae, ripe for satire . I will certainly be reading more of this author’s novels. P.S. forgot to say thanks to the publisher for the ARC via Netgalley

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hanneke

    This novel could not amuse me at all and I am sure that this was certainly Patrick deWitt's objective. Being sarcastic is something else than being hilarious. Such a shame after his very enjoyable and special novel The Sister Brothers. This novel could not amuse me at all and I am sure that this was certainly Patrick deWitt's objective. Being sarcastic is something else than being hilarious. Such a shame after his very enjoyable and special novel The Sister Brothers.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    3.5, rounded down. This was my first taste of deWitt, and while for the most part I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it was very fast-paced and often LOL funny, the denouement didn't really work for me ... it started to go downhill about the time Small Frank starts speaking as Franklin, and from there my suspension of disbelief kept getting more and more tried. Regardless, for a silly and fun romp it isn't a bad time pass, and if Cate Blanchett is as smart as I take her for, she will immediately phone 3.5, rounded down. This was my first taste of deWitt, and while for the most part I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it was very fast-paced and often LOL funny, the denouement didn't really work for me ... it started to go downhill about the time Small Frank starts speaking as Franklin, and from there my suspension of disbelief kept getting more and more tried. Regardless, for a silly and fun romp it isn't a bad time pass, and if Cate Blanchett is as smart as I take her for, she will immediately phone Wes Anderson and beg him to write and direct her in a film adaptation. Update 8/20/20: I see that Azazel Jacobs (the only film of his I've seen, The Lovers, didn't impress much) is doing the film with Michelle Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges as the leads ... not horrible casting, but think Cate would have been better. Further Update 7/12/21: Well, saw the film last night on DVD, and ... it just doesn't work; even though deWitt adapted it himself, all the charm and wit of the book fall dismally flat. Perhaps it would have been impossible to get the tone right to have MADE it work. Pfeiffer acts her keester off, but lacks an essential warmth that would have rendered Frances a likeable character - here, you just want to get away from her quickly as possible. And the great Tracy Letts is wasted as Franklin - his onscreen presence is limited to his corpse, although he lends his voice to Small Frank also. :-(

  22. 5 out of 5

    T.D. Whittle

    This book is like drinking, which is perhaps appropriate since there's a lot of imbibing within its pages. The party starts off well: the guests are witty and often very funny, if caustic; the dialogue is clever, with occasional sexiness playing round the edges. I, the reader, am having a marvelous time and am happy I came, since I'd considered doing otherwise. (Almost went to a Dicken's extravaganza instead!) There is a tipping point, though, that feels something like drowning, and that too is a This book is like drinking, which is perhaps appropriate since there's a lot of imbibing within its pages. The party starts off well: the guests are witty and often very funny, if caustic; the dialogue is clever, with occasional sexiness playing round the edges. I, the reader, am having a marvelous time and am happy I came, since I'd considered doing otherwise. (Almost went to a Dicken's extravaganza instead!) There is a tipping point, though, that feels something like drowning, and that too is appropriate to this book. I began to have a headache not unlike a hangover and to feel that perhaps I'd stayed too long and drunk too much. I began to have regrets in which my immediate and long-term future felt suddenly and desperately bleak. Nevertheless, I pushed through to the sad and bitter end, not sure I'd come out the better for it. I read it all in one go, last night, and I'm still unsure and still nursing the headache. This book is a black comedy, yes. Indeed. I knew that going in. But really, there's probably something awfully wrong with a person who would find its satire satisfying all the way to the end. Are we supposed to find this book hilarious because it happens to the rich and egocentric? If the same exact book had been written about a poor, illiterate, backwater family, it would be considered a tragedy rather than a comedy. Nevertheless, there are quite a few stellar qualities to French Exit that are worthy of mention: the writing is very good even if it doesn't feel like "real life" to many readers; the characters are engaging and memorable; there are some exceedingly funny moments during which I actually laughed aloud, which I don't do very often whilst reading fiction; and there are exchanges of deep humanity, grace, and dignity where, when, and from whom, you least expect them. So, finally, there is an underlying message of compassion and connection that's delivered in castaway moments and settings, and in something other than a cold and flippant manner. Though one can never complain of deWitt being saccharine. In fact, he seems to live in terror of normal human sentiment, while making a joke at his own expense of cliche (which is funny since he's rarely that). The sincerity, though, it is there: It's swimming just beneath the icy surface. Book-hangover update: Upgrading my review to four stars because, once the headache wore off, I began to reflect on some of the works of one of my very favourite writers, Muriel Spark. Spark was a quite a bit subtler than deWitt but no less caustic, and I think that perhaps its my own growing distaste for cynicism and mockery that caused me to feel some disgust at the end. (view spoiler)[It's also perhaps the tawdry elegance with which deWitt manages the death scene. It is hollow and false and will seem so to anyone who has had a loved one suicide. (hide spoiler)] Nevertheless, the book as a whole deserves no fewer than four somewhat-damaged stars for its artistic merit.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    French Exit is deWitt’s fourth novel and I have read them all. He is best known for his Booker nominated “The Sisters Brothers”, scheduled for release as a movie in September 2018 (I’m looking forward to that!). But Ablutions and Undermajordomo Minor also share the dark comedy that is a trademark of deWitt’s writing. This novel is billed as a “tragedy of manners”, which I assume is a reference to a “comedy of manners”. It is important to note that as you head into the story. “Comedy of manners” French Exit is deWitt’s fourth novel and I have read them all. He is best known for his Booker nominated “The Sisters Brothers”, scheduled for release as a movie in September 2018 (I’m looking forward to that!). But Ablutions and Undermajordomo Minor also share the dark comedy that is a trademark of deWitt’s writing. This novel is billed as a “tragedy of manners”, which I assume is a reference to a “comedy of manners”. It is important to note that as you head into the story. “Comedy of manners” is a defined literary form of satire that targets contemporary society and societal norms. To do this, a comedy of manners often uses stock characters and often sacrifices plot (normally it is about a scandal of some kind) in deference to witty dialogue and social commentary. It helps to go into DeWitt’s new novel knowing this because the plot is absurd. If you read the book on the understanding that this is deliberate, it works. But don’t try to take it seriously. I laughed a lot while reading this book. You will too, I think, if you found The Sisters Brothers funny. A lot of the humour is deadpan: “She said, ‘I told Don I had to run to Paris because I thought you were going to kill yourself. He was fiddling with the television remote and he told me, ‘Tell her hello if you get there in time.’’” Some of it is pure farce, such as when Malcolm leaps into bed with a woman he meets on the boat and “…peeling of his socks, he said, ‘I won’t be needing these!’” Frances Price is a 65-year-old widow. Scandal has followed her since she found her husband dead on their floor and left him there without telling anyone while she headed off on a skiing trip. Before his death, her husband was fabulously wealthy and Frances has never known anything other than wealth. That is until her profligacy uses up all the money her husband left and she discovers, despite repeated warnings from her advisor, that she is broke. She and her son, Malcolm, head to a friend’s apartment in Paris with the cash they can pull together by selling their possessions. And with Small Frank, a cat who plays an increasingly important part in an increasingly bizarre plot. And Frances has a plan. A chapter late in the book starts with the sentence “Now came strangeness”, which leaves the reader thinking “What do you mean ‘now’? What about all the strangeness so far? What’s going to happen ‘now’?” I won’t spoil the book by revealing the plot, but I will say that you need to suspend disbelief because it heads off into left field and doesn’t show much sign of coming home. Until the very sad ending. You see, right at the start, a character says of Frances “He knew he should dislike this woman, but he didn’t or he couldn’t”, and that is the reader’s experience, too. She’s arrogant, she’s a snob, she manipulates people. But you can’t help yourself starting to like her and this means the ending packs a punch. In a nod towards the themes of the current (2018) Man Booker long list, there’s an undercurrent of racial tension. This is observed by the “upper classes” who are our main characters - significantly, they look down on the immigrants from their apartment. There’s not a lot of this, but some murmurings that culminate in the police putting down a riot amongst immigrants in a Paris park: “Riot police came pouring into the park. Abnormally large and it battlefield armor, they went about their violence with authority and vigor, certain of them with an apparent pleasure. The moved through the park knocking down the immigrants one after the other; a tap on the skull and on to the next.” One of the immigrants tries to fight back and is beaten unconscious. Later in the book, Frances is down there giving him money. Is she being philanthropic or is this part of her grand plan? Perhaps it is a bit of both. If you liked The Sisters Brothers, I would recommend this. It perhaps isn’t as good, but it is still an entertaining read. I haven’t even mentioned the bizarre way Small Frank gets involved with the plot! 3.5 stars, rounded up because it was fun. My thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for a review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    deWitt is a mordant genius. That's all. deWitt is a mordant genius. That's all.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Judith E

    Author deWitt has created an odd and absurd cast of characters that I hope no one really knows. I loved The Sisters Brothers, but this sketchy story just didn’t jive. There are some funny scenes but it was a struggle to find any sort of tangible meaning in the writing or any clear purpose for the mockery.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lillian

    How refreshing it is to read a story with no physical violence, murder, psychological torture or with the ubiquitous unreliable narrator. deWitt, like Willy Vlautin is a highly underrated author. His amazing novel, The Sisters Brothers has a loyal following but it is no where near the size it should be. The central characters of French Exit are Franklin, Francis and their son Malcolm. Franklin Price has made a fortune as a ruthless and ethically suspect litigator. When we meet Frances, it is 20 ye How refreshing it is to read a story with no physical violence, murder, psychological torture or with the ubiquitous unreliable narrator. deWitt, like Willy Vlautin is a highly underrated author. His amazing novel, The Sisters Brothers has a loyal following but it is no where near the size it should be. The central characters of French Exit are Franklin, Francis and their son Malcolm. Franklin Price has made a fortune as a ruthless and ethically suspect litigator. When we meet Frances, it is 20 years after Franklin's death and she has blown through his entire fortune. With only a small remnant left, she decides to go to France with Malcolm and her cat, Small Frank in order to gain time to decide her next step. While there, she unwittingly meets a perfectly enigmatic cast of characters that aid in her decision. French Exit is a story about people and their desire for connection. It is about their flaws, their vulnerability and ultimately their humanity. Patrick deWitt's strength is in creating engaging characters that do really eccentric things yet become endearing. His prose is sharp, sparkling, darkly humorous and totally enchanting. However, the extraordinary quality of French Exit is that it feels like it was entirely written by a woman. It is a testament to his writing skill that he can come completely out of himself and embody a woman like Francis Price, or Mme Raynard, or Susan or Madeleine or Joan and he does it masterfully. French Exit is wonderful and I have nothing but praise for Patrick deWitt. If you liked The Sisters Brothers, I think you'll enjoy this as well. Is it just a coincidence that both he and Willy live in Oregon? Thank you HarperCollins for this ARE!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Antoinette

    If you're in the mood for a light, humorous, witty read, then you'll enjoy this book. I initially really liked it, but it then became tedious and I just wanted it to be done! If you're in the mood for a light, humorous, witty read, then you'll enjoy this book. I initially really liked it, but it then became tedious and I just wanted it to be done!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (3.25) If you’ve read The Sisters Brothers, you’ll recognize deWitt’s deadpan, black humor here. This story of a prickly mother and her hapless son is less violent but more caustic, and initially difficult to love because of the characters’ flippancy and the unrealistic dialogue. No one really talks like this, I kept thinking to myself. But Frances and Malcolm grew on me as they sail from New York City to Paris and settle into a friend’s apartment with the cat Small Frank – no ordinary feline bu (3.25) If you’ve read The Sisters Brothers, you’ll recognize deWitt’s deadpan, black humor here. This story of a prickly mother and her hapless son is less violent but more caustic, and initially difficult to love because of the characters’ flippancy and the unrealistic dialogue. No one really talks like this, I kept thinking to myself. But Frances and Malcolm grew on me as they sail from New York City to Paris and settle into a friend’s apartment with the cat Small Frank – no ordinary feline but an embodiment of Frances’ late husband. When Small Frank goes missing, mother and son enlist the services of a private investigator to find the medium who was a fellow passenger on the boat so they can have a hope of reconnecting with him. All told, the pair attracts quite the crowd of random hangers-on (in deWitt’s in-joke, one character asks another, “Have you fallen in with a mad cast of plucky, down-at-heel characters?”). Frances makes a point of using up her thousands of remaining euros, so they host a lavish cocktail party that includes as entertainment Balderdash, arm wrestling, and a talent show. There are more truly great scenes, so ridiculous they jolt you into a startled laugh: finding a dildo in a freezer, a dead pigeon falling on a homeless man’s chest, and (view spoiler)[Small Frank attempting suicide from the top of the Eiffel Tower not once but twice; darn it, he just keeps landing on his feet! (hide spoiler)] . But it’s a challenge to warm to a book without a kernel of sincerity, and I wish it hadn’t ended the way it did. I also thought the obscenities lowered the potentially highbrow tone.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    My first deWitt – and a read which is decidedly quirky. At first it seems nothing more that a piece of frothy entertainment as Frances Price, hapless son in tow, bitches her way through the world (on a hostess: ‘born to bore’, she dismisses; on a party guest: ‘Men’s teeth in a child’s mouth. I had to look away’.) But soon a more uneasy sense of something starts to seep through: Malcolm’s abandonment at school until his father dies and his glamorous, eccentric mother pitches up to take him glorio My first deWitt – and a read which is decidedly quirky. At first it seems nothing more that a piece of frothy entertainment as Frances Price, hapless son in tow, bitches her way through the world (on a hostess: ‘born to bore’, she dismisses; on a party guest: ‘Men’s teeth in a child’s mouth. I had to look away’.) But soon a more uneasy sense of something starts to seep through: Malcolm’s abandonment at school until his father dies and his glamorous, eccentric mother pitches up to take him gloriously away; the moment when Frances tells her lawyer that she’d expected to die before she’d spent her way through her husband’s fortune, and yet she’s still here. For all the romp and farce there’s an underlying sense of tragic existential unease... and *that* ending. Witty, for sure, but there’s more to this than meets the eye: 3.5 stars. Thanks to Bloomsbury for an ARC via NetGalley

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    Frances Price has always been a bit frightening.  Her name is well known around the Upper East Side for her beauty, snobbery, and especially for scandal.  Years ago when she found her sleazy lawyer husband dead from a heart attack, she left their home and went on a ski trip, not bothering to inform anyone of his death. This has left tongues wagging for twenty years but a new scandal is on the horizon:  she's almost broke. Frances packs up her adult son Malcolm and their cat Frank (the reincarnatio Frances Price has always been a bit frightening.  Her name is well known around the Upper East Side for her beauty, snobbery, and especially for scandal.  Years ago when she found her sleazy lawyer husband dead from a heart attack, she left their home and went on a ski trip, not bothering to inform anyone of his death. This has left tongues wagging for twenty years but a new scandal is on the horizon:  she's almost broke. Frances packs up her adult son Malcolm and their cat Frank (the reincarnation of her deceased husband) to leave behind the gossip for Paris.   In the City of Lights, mother and son meet a quirky cast of characters beginning with their strange new friend Mme. Reynard who is starving for attention and decides to move in though no one has invited her. When Frank the cat goes missing, Frances hires a P.I. to search for a woman Malcolm met on their Atlantic crossing who claimed to be psychic. The P.I. returns with the psychic who contacts Frank to find out why he has run away.   Meanwhile, Malcolm's sort-of girlfriend Susan shows up with her new fiancee Tom, who is disgusted with her continued hang up on Malcolm. With an apartment full of strangers turned (uninvited) house guests, Frances burns through the last of the money as quickly as she can while looking back on the prime of her life and her relationships with her husband and son. In an oddball tale of social outcasts (both human and feline), deWitt targets high society in a dark comedy with a few gems of insightful wisdom and plenty of eyebrow-raising conversations.  French Exit proves to readers that money can't buy everything, especially manners and love. Thanks to Ecco and Edelweiss for providing me with a DRC in exchange for my honest review.  French Exit is scheduled for release on August 28, 2018. For more full reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com

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