Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Review: French Exit, by Patrick DeWitt

French Exit, by Patrick DeWitt. Published 2018 by Ecco. Audiobook narration by Lorna Raver.

As some of you may know I was a pretty big fan of Patrick DeWitt's 2011 Booker-Prize-nominated comedy The Sisters Brothers. So much so that I honestly hesitated to read his latest, French Exit, for fear that I would be disappointed and not have the same delightful experience. Well I needn't have been afraid.

The premise of French Exit is a little less enticing, I have to admit- wealthy widow and man-child son lose their money and must spend their declining time in, of all places, Paris. Poor dears! But the physical location is only incidental to their situation; it barely even registers, honestly. They could be anywhere; what matters is what's going on inside them.

Frances Price is the stunning widow of Franklin Price and the survivor of a scandal that she caused when her husband died. Malcolm is their 30ish son, who still lives with his mother, has no profession and few relationships of any kind. There is Susan, a woman who loves Malcolm, and a cat, Small Frank, who seems attached to Frances for some reason. Frances has a friend named Joan, another wealthy woman who lends Frances and Malcolm her Paris apartment when Frances discovers that their money is gone and they are about to be evicted from their home. Quickly selling what possessions she can, Frances takes her son, her cat and a wad of Euros on a one-way cruise to the Continent, where she picks up a ragtag assortment of friends and enacts a plan.

Patrick deWitt's sense of black humor and his pitch-perfect character building, not to mention talent for the arch phrase and knowing wink of the pen (if there is such a thing) make this story absolutely delightful. I really enjoyed every minute. Lorna Raver's narration shapes the book into theater, with her slightly scratchy, mannered Frances and lumbering-dolt Malcolm especially good. The ending is predictable and the book takes a turn towards the bittersweet at its approach; nevertheless I was still shocked at the last-minute violence of it. It's just a wonderful book, frivolous in just the right way and serious when it counts.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary audiobook from libro.fm.

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