Frances Price in French Exit reminds me of a blue-blood, eccentric friend of my mom’s who was so blind to her wealth that once, while enjoying her first experience dining at a Waffle House, asked if they had Russian dressing for her salad. Another time a waiter explained that there was no smoking allowed inside the restaurant, and she casually waved her cigarette in the air and said, charmingly disarming him, “Well, let’s just pretend, shall we?”
French Exit is the story of the disdainful and weary Frances Price, widowed and rapidly running out of money, and her feckless son, Malcolm. Shocked to learn of their dwindling funds, Frances and Malcolm flee to Paris in order to stay rent-free in a friend’s apartment. Accompanying them in their getaway is Small Frank, the aloof cat that Frances believes houses the soul of her dead husband. Once in Paris, Frances and Malcolm unintentionally acquire a coterie of hangers-on that create madcap antics while attempting to contact Frances’s dead husband (who is cavorting around the Paris streets as a cat). Trust me, it actually makes sense.
This story is chockablock full of quirky, clueless, insolent characters that are completely endearing. You can’t help but love them. They are full of entitlement and haughtiness that lends itself to deadpan humor and dry satire. Their complacency, however, is only a fine sheen over their much deeper heartbreak and tenderness.
French Exit is ultimate DeWitt. Enjoyable through and through.
Many thanks to Edelweiss and HarperCollins for an advance copy in exchange for my review. When DeWitt writes his next book, can I review it, pleasepleaseplease?