French Exit, by Patrick DeWitt. Pub 2018
Telling the story of Frances Price and her son, Malcolm, the self-described “tragedy of manners” is a modern homage to the parlour sets of Georgian novels, with a hint of French farce. The stories and fates of the main characters, as well as their associated friends new and old, are brilliant. Frances could have been dreadfully unsympathetic, but DeWitt colours her with characteristics that we can all recognize – we all know or know of a Frances. Malcolm is harder to know and love, but he ends up well and there is hope for him by the end.
The centrepiece of the story is the accretion of acquaintances that they bring into their lives in Paris. The evening where, one by one, people arrive and just stay is laugh-out-loud funny. And the story’s conclusion, while predictable, is nonetheless moving and feels complete.
I have not read any of his other books, but I have seen the film based on DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers and found it a similarly delightful story, albeit quite different (a story of bounty hunters in the Old West). An enjoyable easy read that I’d highly recommend.
#3 A book published in 2018
#24 A book by an author I’ve never read before