If you are in need of profoundly meaningful fiction to signal some in-demand virtues, look elsewhere. If you just want something well-written, brilliant characterised and just entirely entertaining – in other words, a damn good book – this high-society dark comedy of manners be it. My favourite novel in too, too long; it will not change your life, but it will render it, for a time, more fun.
Frances Price – tart widow, possessive mother and Upper East Side force of nature – is in dire straits, beset by scandal. Her adult son Malcolm is no help, mired in a permanent state of arrested development. And then there’s their cat, Small Frank, who Frances believes houses the spirit of her late husband, an infamously immoral lawyer whose gruesome tabloid death rendered them social outcasts. To put their troubles behind them, the trio cut their losses and head for the exit.
Their beloved Paris becomes the backdrop for a giddy drive to self-destruction, helped along by a cast of singularly curious characters: a bashful private investigator, an aimless psychic and Mme. Reynard, friendly American expat and aggressive houseguest.
Brimming with pathos, warmth and wit, ‘French Exit’ is a one-of-a-kind tragedy of manners, a riotous send-up of high society and a moving story of mothers and sons.