French Exit

By (author) Patrick deWitt
Categories: Fiction: general and literary, Fiction and Related items, Humorous fiction
Publisher: House of Anansi Press
Paperback : 9781487004835, 248 pages, August 2018

Description

Finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and an international bestseller, Patrick deWitt’s brilliant and darkly comic novel is now a major motion picture starring Michelle Pfeiffer.

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.

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 and son caper which only Patrick deWitt could conceive and execute. A finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and an international bestseller upon its original publication, French Exit is now a major motion picture starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges and with a script by Patrick deWitt.

Awards

  • Commended, A Chatelaine Book of the Year 2018
  • Commended, A Quill & Quire Book of the Year 2018
  • Short-listed, Forest of Reading Evergreen Award 2018
  • Commended, A Now Magazine Book of the Year 2018
  • Commended, A 49th Shelf Book of the Year 2018
  • Long-listed, International Dublin Literary Award 2018
  • Short-listed, Oregon Book Awards: Ken Kesey Award for Fiction 2018
  • Commended, A New York Public Library Best Book of the Year 2018
  • Commended, International Bestseller 2018
  • Commended, A Globe and Mail Book of the Year 2018
  • Commended, An Amazon.com Best Book of the Month 2018
  • Short-listed, Scotiabank Giller Prize 2018

Reviews

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

[DeWitt] is a masterful storyteller who propels narrative with witty, weird vignettes and digressions.

- Literary Review of Canada

Disarmingly funny … Billed as a ‘tragedy of manners,’ French Exit is deWitt’s take on a form of theatre popularized over the centuries (but dating back to the ancient Greeks) by such luminaries as Molière, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, and Noel Coward — with deWitt’s snappy yet droll version most closely resembling the latter two. A traditional comedy of manners employs an abundance of wit and insouciance to skewer the deplorable aspects of high society — and the prevalence of appearance over substance in particular. DeWitt’s absolute mastery over this approach is a thing of beauty: every nuance, scene, character, and snippet of dialogue is pitch perfect … French Exit includes multiple layers of meaning and social commentary, wrapped up in a whip-smart package that cracks with wit and wordplay … DeWitt proves that while The Sisters Brothers may have made his name as an author, it was far from a singular success.

- Quill & Quire, STARRED REVIEW

French Exit satisfies with its delightful economy. Barely a word is out of place, and the dialogue is particularly arch and ironic … One hears echoes in French Exit of playwrights Noël Coward and Oscar Wilde, not to mention novelists Evelyn Waugh and Edith Wharton.

- Winnipeg Free Press

A highly enjoyable read . . . DeWitt’s style is nothing if not idiosyncratic, and his elevated language — played for particular comic effect when it comes to dialogue — is perfectly suited to affectionately chiding upper-class mores. And the tenderness between Frances, her son, and her old friend Joan is of the real stuff.

- Esquire

A sparkling dark comedy that channels both Noel Coward’s wit and Wes Anderson’s loopy sensibility. 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

DeWitt’s particular comic genius is to evoke the darkness behind the dazzle. The novel is a brittle, unsettling delight: a fairground ride swooping above vertiginous drops, wringing out laughter and screams as it rattles towards its conclusion. Whichever style he adopts or genre he inhabits, deWitt remains a true original.

- Guardian

Sharply observed moments give deWitt’s well-written novel more depth than the usual comedy of manners — a depth reinforced by the exit that closes the tale, sharp object and all. Reminiscent at points of The Ginger Man but in the end a bright, original yarn with a surprising twist.

- Kirkus Reviews

DeWitt’s particular comic genius is to evoke the darkness behind the dazzle. The novel is a brittle, unsettling delight: a fairground ride swooping above vertiginous drops, wringing out laughter and screams as it rattles towards its conclusion. Whichever style he adopts or genre he inhabits, deWitt remains a true original.

- Washington Post

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

A ‘tragedy of manners’ about people out of sync in the world, this novel is disconcertingly funny. It strikes postures where a more conventional writer would have been sincere and humourless. Its subjects are effrontery, wealth, death, and bad manners. Many of the greatest novels are about nothing so very important, and they last because they are done beautifully. French Exit shows Patrick deWitt’s literary mastery and perfect ear. It’s an immaculate performance on ice, executed with sharp shining blades, lutzing and pirouetting above unknowable black depths.

- Scotiabank Giller Prize Jury Citation

DeWitt’s surrealism is cheerful and matter-of-fact, making the novel feel as buoyantly insane as its characters.

- New Yorker