French Exit by Patrick deWitt
I didn’t sleep the night I finished this book. It is funny but also strangely emotional and I couldn’t get it out of my head.
Released late last year, French Exit tells the story of a glamorous New York widow, Frances and her gloomy adult son, Malcolm. The two of them have spent the last of their sizeable inheritance and neither has any intention of seeking gainful employment. Evicted from their home, they take their cat, Little Frank (one of the more charismatic feline characters in modern fiction) and their last Euro and move to Paris. The entire story is pulled together with the ever present sense that the money is running out.
I’m new to American novelist Patrick deWitt, but am determined to catch up fast. This is his fourth novel and it follows the hugely successful ‘The Sisters Brothers’. I’ve also just started that one and another positive review is looking likely.
In French Exit, deWitt’s writing is deadpan dry, sometimes utterly unpredictable and as black as black can be. The characters have an endearing touch of The Royal Tenenbaums, but without the clichés and it is almost impossible not to care about them in some way. They may be rude, dysfunctional and heading towards what seems an inexorable conclusion, but I couldn’t look away. To be picky, I preferred the first part of the book where it was just Frances, Malcolm and Little Frank, but the journey to Paris and the adventures that follow are also fantastic.
French Exit is surreal, profound and funny, yet sad. It is a page turner that will leave you awake in the night or at the very least thinking about it afterwards.
Ok its only March, but this is the best read of the year for me so far. A great choice for book club as well.
And that’s just my 2 cents worth.