de Witt, Patrick. French Exit: A Novel, Ecco, 2018
Mother, Son and Cat
Frances Price is a widow and a mother who finds herself and her son, Malcolm, in the midst of scandal and bankruptcy. Malcolm is stuck. Frances also has a cat who, she 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.”
Thinking that she has little choice, the family decides to cut their losses and head for Paris where they will face self-destruction and economical ruin. We meet a fascinating cast of characters with whom the family interacts. I see this novel as a satire on those who think that they are members of high society without the financial means to be so (like the New Orleans debutante who I went to school with—- her parents had to mortgage their home to pay for her white dresses to come out in and she really should not have worn white because of what it symbolizes). We read of a mother-son caper unlike no other and it is a fun read. In fact, you might want to read it more than once— the first time to find out what happens and the next times to relax with the characters and enjoy deWitt’s wonderful prose.
Frances is a possessive mother whose ineffectual and dependent thirty-year-old son, Malcolm, is of no help in the crisis they are dealing with. There is something about watching the mighty fall and we have certainly seen that happen with all of the sexual assault cases of late. Here we have people we do not now who fall because of financial ruin and we enjoy it and care about Frances, Malcolm and the cat.