French Exit is so deliciously decadent that you will want to drink it, shaken not stirred. It is classy, it is wicked and it is irreverent.
The assemble of characters dazzles. The three main heroes (though they don’t qualify for that term in any way, shape of form) are Frances, Malcolm and Small Frank. Frances is an extravagant rich widow hellbent of self-destruction, financially and otherwise. Her son Malcolm is a man frozen in inaction, content to drift through life without any clear direction or destination, sort of attached to his mother like a barnacle to the underbelly of a sinking ship. And Small Frank is the late husband-father who has found home in a body of a domestic cat.
In transit to self-destruction Francis, accompanied by her two dependants, makes a stop in Paris.
At first sight you may think this book shallow, degenerate and immoral, but very soon you come to realise that there is a depth of despair and surrender under the surface of flamboyance and extravagance. Patrick de Witt is very elegant in hinting at it. He doesn’t tell you about it. He doesn’t let his characters tell you about it. Still, you know that depth sits there – the root of all trouble.
The story is character driven, and each character is a scream – unique, distinct and irredeemable. But you wish them well, you root for them, you hope for them.
It is a riot of a book!