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French Exit
Cover of French Exit
French Exit
A Novel
Borrow Borrow Borrow

A Most Anticipated Book of the Season from
Vanity Fair * Entertainment Weekly * Vulture * The Millions * Publishers Weekly

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 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 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, and a doctor who makes house calls with his wine merchant in tow, to name a few.

Brimming with pathos, French Exit is a one-of-a-kind 'tragedy of manners,' a send-up of high society, as well as a moving mother/son caper which only Patrick deWitt could conceive and execute.

A Most Anticipated Book of the Season from
Vanity Fair * Entertainment Weekly * Vulture * The Millions * Publishers Weekly

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 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 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, and a doctor who makes house calls with his wine merchant in tow, to name a few.

Brimming with pathos, French Exit is a one-of-a-kind 'tragedy of manners,' a 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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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Patrick deWitt is the author of the critically acclaimed Ablutions: Notes for a Novel, as well as the novels Undermajordomo Minor and The Sisters Brothers, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Born in British Columbia, Canada, he has also lived in California and Washington, and now resides in Portland, Oregon.

Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    March 15, 2018

    Blackly funny Booker short-listed deWitt portrays acidulous widow Frances Price, whose ethics-challenged litigator husband caused scandal in death as in life, compelling her to escape the scorn of New York's Upper East Side by heading to Paris with her laze-about, spoiled-rotten adult son and their enigmatic cat. Not surprisingly, personal and financial chaos await them. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 4, 2018
    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 fiancé 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.

  • Kirkus

    June 15, 2018
    "They're not normal people": an entertaining romp among the disaffected bourgeoisie.Early in the pages of deWitt's (Undermajordomo Minor, 2015, etc.) latest, the shiftless son of Frances Price--a meaningful name, that--wanders into the family's Manhattan kitchen to find his mother wielding a "long, gleaming knife." Having never seen her cook, Malcolm is puzzled. No, she's not cooking, says Maman: "I only like the sound it makes." Frances and Malcolm are sensual creatures, she a "moneyed, striking woman of sixty-five years," he "broody and unkempt." Now, suddenly broke, Frances decides to sell what she can and bolt to Paris, Malcolm in tow. Frances is a whirlwind, not a person to observe the rules: When the real estate agent says his fee will be 30 percent, nonnegotiable, she negotiates: "If you name another figure that is not fifteen percent, I will go to fourteen percent...and on down the line until your payment, and your sole function in regard to my own life, disappears altogether." Their fate in Paris and en route is to meet unlikely people, like one Boris Maurus, whose moniker prompts Malcolm to remark, with unusual insight, "We both have horror movie names," and the footloose Mme Reynard, who disappoints Frances by being rather affable and unstylish rather than offering a foil for "a night of implied insults and needling insinuations." Sometimes it seems like the most grown-up character in the novel is the cat, Small Frank, and in any event Paris is not always a picnic, as when Malcolm and Frances observe a knot of cops beating up a demonstration of étrangers: "They moved through the pack knocking down the immigrants one after the other; a tap on the skull and on to the next." Such 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.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Washington Post "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.... Rarely has a transatlantic voyage and its limited diversions been so pithily evoked."
  • The New Yorker "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."
  • Kate Atkinson, Vanity Fair "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."
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune "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."
  • Nylon Magazine "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."
  • San Francisco Chronicle "[A] riotous tragedy of (ill) manners.... The show stealer here is deWitt's knack for scene setting and dialogue in the form of Frances' wry one-liners.... That Frances sure is a force to contend with. But what a classy broad."
  • Poets & Writers "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."
  • Eugene Register-Guard "[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."
  • Poets & Writers "Darkly comic.... French Exit is both a satiric send-up of high society and a wilding mother-son caper."
  • Kirkus Reviews "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."
  • Nell Zink, author of Mislaid and Nicotine "The first time I read French Exit, I raced through, impatient to know the fates of its characters. Then I turned back to page one to enjoy Patrick deWitt's understated satire and casually brutal wit."
  • Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Today Will Be Different "'My favorite book of his yet. The dialogue is dizzyingly good, the world so weird and fresh. A triumph from a writer truly in the zone."
  • Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Less "French Exit made me so happy—I feel as if I have downed a third martini, stayed up past sunrise, and still woken up refreshed. Brilliant, addictive, funny and wise, DeWitt's latest has enough charm to last you long after you've put it down."
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A Novel
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