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French Exit

By: Patrick DeWitt

Publisher: HarperCollins Trade

Imprint: Ecco

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9780062846921

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Electronic | Audio | Trade Paperback

On Sale: | Pages: 256

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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 sance, 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.
[DeWitt] gives "French Exit" a delicious brittleness; you come to care about these spiky characters in spite of yourself, not because the narrator thinks you should. The Prices aren't cuddly � Frances has a "searching, malevolent flicker in her eye"; Malcolm is a casual thief (he meets his girlfriend while stealing her dead father's watch from a bedroom during a party) � but they're good company. Here's hoping they'll be back.
—Seattle Times
The opening scene of Patrick deWitt's “French Exit” is so perfectly staged that a curtain seems to rise on his elegant creation.... Within a few sentences, the comic brilliance that sparked deWitt's earlier adventures ignites this “tragedy of manners” and Frances Price, “a moneyed, striking woman of sixty-five years,” is revealed to be another of deWitt's sublime eccentrics.... Indeed, the novel is so mannered, so arch, that even intimate moments are barbed with slyly traded quips.... Echoes of the British writer Ivy Compton-Burnett, whose influence deWitt acknowledges, are strong, with some of the funniest moments arising from the stylized dialogue. But the comical decorum of deWitt's style, so wonderfully incongruous in the wilder settings of his previous novels, loses some of its force in this airtight, rarefied world...
—Washington Post
DeWitt is known for his off-kilter and often genre-busting story lines.... Here, he seems to be poking fun at rich people and their frivolous, dysfunctional lifestyles, while also intentionally making use of the usual tropes to do so. Another send-up? Hard to say. But what is assuredly the show stealer here is deWitt's knack for scene setting and dialogue in the form of Frances' wry one-liners.... “French Exit” might not resonate with everyone in need of a sure or consistent path forward. But there's one thing that's certain — and it's what kept this reviewer hooked. That Frances sure is a force to contend with. But what a classy broad.
—San Francisco Chronicle
Whether they'll end up together is one of many questions answered in a borrowed apartment that accommodates a screwball farce-worthy cast of characters, including a crabby wine dealer, a private detective, a medium, an unorthodox doctor, an otherworldly cat, Susan's belligerent fianc and the actual owner of the apartment, who would just like to find somewhere to put down her martini glass. DeWitt is aiming for farce and to say something about characters who cannot get out of their own way, and he achieves both with lan.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
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