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French Exit
By (author): Patrick deWitt
9781487004835 Paperback, Trade English General Trade FICTION / Literary Aug 28, 2018
$22.95 CAD
Active 5.5 x 8.25 x 0.7 in | 290 gr 248 pages House of Anansi Press Inc House of Anansi Press

Finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and an international bestseller, Patrick deWitt’s brilliant and darkly comic novel is now a major motion picture starring Michelle Pfeiffer.

Frances Price — tart widow, possessive mother, and Upper East Side force of nature — is in dire straits, beset by scandal and impending bankruptcy. Her adult son Malcolm is no help, mired in a permanent state of arrested development. And then there’s the Price’s aging cat, Small Frank, who Frances 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.

Putting penury and pariahdom behind them, the family decides to cut their losses and head for the exit. One ocean voyage later, the curious trio land in their beloved Paris, the City of Light serving as a backdrop not for love or romance, but self-destruction and economic ruin — to riotous effect.

Brimming with pathos and wit, French Exit is a one-of-a-kind “tragedy of manners,” a riotous send-up of high society, as well as a moving mother and son caper which only Patrick deWitt could conceive and execute. A finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and an international bestseller upon its original publication, French Exit is now a major motion picture starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges and with a script by Patrick deWitt.

PATRICK DEWITT was born on Vancouver Island in 1975. He is the author of three critically acclaimed novels: Undermajordomo Minor, Ablutions and The Sisters Brothers, which won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and the Stephen Leacock Medal, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Scotiabank Giller Prize. He lives in Portland, Oregon.


Finalist, Scotiabank Giller Prize
Finalist, Oregon Book Awards: Ken Kesey Award for Fiction
Finalist, Forest of Reading Evergreen Award
Longlist, International Dublin Literary Award
International Bestseller
A Globe and Mail Book of the Year
A Quill & Quire Book of the Year
A Chatelaine Book of the Year
A Now Magazine Book of the Year
An Best Book of the Month
A New York Public Library Best Book of the Year
A 49th Shelf Book of the Year

“A ‘tragedy of manners’ about people out of sync in the world, this novel is disconcertingly funny. It strikes postures where a more conventional writer would have been sincere and humourless. Its subjects are effrontery, wealth, death, and bad manners. Many of the greatest novels are about nothing so very important, and they last because they are done beautifully. French Exit shows Patrick deWitt’s literary mastery and perfect ear. It’s an immaculate performance on ice, executed with sharp shining blades, lutzing and pirouetting above unknowable black depths.” — Scotiabank Giller Prize Jury Citation

“A sparkling dark comedy that channels both Noel Coward’s wit and Wes Anderson’s loopy sensibility. DeWitt’s tone is breezy, droll, and blithely transgressive … These are people you may not want to invite to dinner, but they sure make for fun reading.” — NPR

“A cross between a Feydeau farce (fitting, given that the location of most of the novel is Paris) and a Buñuel film, as one after another in an eccentric cast of characters is introduced … DeWitt is in possession of a fresh, lively voice that surprises at every turn.” — Kate Atkinson, Vanity Fair

“Hilarious … Delightful … In his book, as in [Edith] Wharton’s, New Yorkers’ wit and elaborate manners cannot hide the searing depth of their pain … DeWitt is aiming for farce and to say something about characters who cannot get out of their own way, and he achieves both with élan.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune

“My favourite book of his yet. The dialogue is dizzyingly good, the world so fresh. A triumph from a writer truly in the zone.” — Maria Semple, author of Today Will Be Different

“In French Exit, deWitt’s dialogue snaps, as always … A fun read from a writer who ever-more establishes himself as one of this country’s most distinct voices in fiction.” — Globe and Mail

French Exit satisfies with its delightful economy. Barely a word is out of place, and the dialogue is particularly arch and ironic … One hears echoes in French Exit of playwrights Noël Coward and Oscar Wilde, not to mention novelists Evelyn Waugh and Edith Wharton.” — Winnipeg Free Press

“[DeWitt] gives the story here all the requisite notes of humour and grace, turning the tale of two unsympathetic victims of affluenza into a cosy comedy about the importance of family, love and money, not in that order.” — Toronto Star

“DeWitt’s surrealism is cheerful and matter-of-fact, making the novel feel as buoyantly insane as its characters.” — New Yorker

“Within a few sentences, the comic brilliance that sparked deWitt’s earlier adventures ignites this ‘tragedy of manners.’” — Washington Post

“Disarmingly funny … Billed as a ‘tragedy of manners,’ French Exit is deWitt’s take on a form of theatre popularized over the centuries (but dating back to the ancient Greeks) by such luminaries as Molière, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, and Noel Coward — with deWitt’s snappy yet droll version most closely resembling the latter two. A traditional comedy of manners employs an abundance of wit and insouciance to skewer the deplorable aspects of high society — and the prevalence of appearance over substance in particular. DeWitt’s absolute mastery over this approach is a thing of beauty: every nuance, scene, character, and snippet of dialogue is pitch perfect … French Exit includes multiple layers of meaning and social commentary, wrapped up in a whip-smart package that cracks with wit and wordplay … DeWitt proves that while The Sisters Brothers may have made his name as an author, it was far from a singular success.” — Quill & Quire, STARRED REVIEW

“Sharply observed moments give deWitt’s well-written novel more depth than the usual comedy of manners — a depth reinforced by the exit that closes the tale, sharp object and all. Reminiscent at points of The Ginger Man but in the end a bright, original yarn with a surprising twist.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Darkly comic, perfectly brilliant … Let deWitt take you along on this dizzying, wild ride; you’ll love every second of it, and then hop back to the beginning for another go. It’s worth the trip.” — Nylon Magazine

“[DeWitt] is a masterful storyteller who propels narrative with witty, weird vignettes and digressions.” — Literary Review of Canada

“A thrilling madcap caper anchored by memorable characters, emotional depth, and forensically sharp writing.” — Hannah Rothschild, author of The Improbability of Love

French Exit made me so happy — I feel as if I have downed a third martini, stayed up past sunrise, and still woken up refreshed. Brilliant, addictive, funny, and wise, deWitt’s latest has enough charm to last you long after you’ve put it down, which is what so many of us need in a book. I think you need it, too.” — Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Less

“Patrick deWitt has taken all of what I usually expect and want from a story, misted it in Chanel No. 5, and set to it an immeasurably classy lighter. Love it.” — Natasha Pulley, bestselling author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

“The first time I read French Exit, I raced through, impatient to know the fates of its characters. Then I turned back to page one to enjoy Patrick deWitt’s understated satire and casually brutal wit” — Nell Zink, author of Mislaid

“DeWitt’s particular comic genius is to evoke the darkness behind the dazzle. The novel is a brittle, unsettling delight: a fairground ride swooping above vertiginous drops, wringing out laughter and screams as it rattles towards its conclusion. Whichever style he adopts or genre he inhabits, deWitt remains a true original.” — Guardian

“A highly enjoyable read … DeWitt’s style is nothing if not idiosyncratic, and his elevated language — played for particular comic effect when it comes to dialogue — is perfectly suited to affectionately chiding upper-class mores. And the tenderness between Frances, her son, and her old friend Joan is of the real stuff.” — Esquire

“Darkly funny.” — Zoomer

“This excellent setup — as odd as you’d expect from deWitt — has much dark humour and ultimately, terrible tragedy.” — Penticton Western News

“Patrick deWitt’s latest novel, French Exit, once again delivers the same dark and witty humour that he has expertly sewn into all of his previous works.” — Modern Mississauga

French Exit has been shortlisted for the Giller Prize, and it’s certainly well-deserved. Underneath deWitt’s witty, sassy prose lies a striking and biting critique of familial relationships, society and class. It’s a perfect mix of dark sardonic humour and carefree antics with a little existential angst thrown in.” — Vancouver Province

“A tragic and witty send-up of high society.” — Sun Herald


Longlist, Scotiabank Giller Prize
A Globe and Mail Top 100 Book
Globe and Mail’s Jared Bland’s Top 5 Favourite Book of the Year
A National Post Top 99 Book
A Times Best Book of the Year
A CBC Book of the Year
An Indigo Best Book of 2015
An Best Book
An Editors’ Best Book
A Quill & Quire Notable Book of the Year
An Edmonton Journal Best Book
A Kobo Best Book of the Year
A 49th Shelf Best of 2015
National Bestseller

Undermajordomo Minor not only salutes the literature of a bygone era but fully inhabits it, and the result is a novel that offers the same delights as the fair talks and adventure stories it takes on.” — New York Times Book Review

“Page by page, the book is often a hoot, brimming with winningly quirky characters operating by their own twisted fairy-tale logic.” — Globe and Mail

“[In Undermajordomo Minor], geography and era are purposely abstracted. Where we are, when we are, or why we’re there are all afterthoughts. What matters is Mr. deWitt’s imagination, which is a forceful train that ignores the usual tracks.” — New York Times

“The Canadian writer Patrick deWitt has nerve … deWitt’s characters are never either truly good or fully bad. Instead, and more interestingly, they are specimens of flawed but game humanity, baffled souls struggling in a Petri dish, oddly touching to watch … deWitt conjures and populates a universe on his terms. This is the territory of the Brothers Grimm, as seen through the skewed lens of Wes Anderson or Monty Python … And why shouldn't that work? It works.” — Guardian

“Eerily precise … deWitt is a true original, conjuring up dark and hilarious images. This is a bizarre, darkly funny, passionate book … It is a story about love, discovery and fantasy for it s own sake, a real storyteller’s tale.” — The Times

“’I don’t subscribe to amusements, Lucy. Laughter is the basest sound a body can make, in my opinion,’ says the valet … As I read the book, I more than once made the sound the valet finds so base and unpleasant.” — Wall Street Journal

“With its blend of fantasy and gothic romance, Undermajordomo Minor sounded unlikely to enchant a literalist like me. How wrong I was. From its pitch-perfect opening onwards, it's clear from the unusual atmosphere and droll narration that deWitt has created a unique fictional universe … The challenge for the reader is to resist the temptation to devour a novel which should be savoured.” — Independent

“Compulsively readable sentences, oscillating between the prosaic and the lyrical, the modern and the arcane.” — San Francisco Chronicle

“This novel is compulsively readable. DeWitt’s facility with point of view and narrative style is astounding …Undermajordomo Minor has been engineered by a master craftsman. The pacing is superb and, as I read, I kept thinking how grateful I am to writers who can make me laugh.” — Boston Globe

Undermajordomo Minor creates its own earthy kind of magic … it’s a wonderful novel that is sure to capture the imagination of many readers and awards committees.” — Winnipeg Free Press

“But the ceaseless, sparkling wit and originality of his latest … proves the indomitable deWitt can’t be undone by a few trophies; in fact by delving deeper into the absurd, he arguably takes bigger risk.” — Toronto Star

“In his previous novel, The Sisters Brothers, deWitt discovered brutal humanity and coal-black humour behind the façade of a recognizable genre, and now he’d done it again. Undermajordomo Minor bursts with exchanges begging to be read aloud in the village square.” — Esquire

“In his delightful and dark new novel, Booker nominee deWitt brings his amusingly off-kilter vision to a European folk tale … DeWitt uses familiar tropes to lull the reader into a false sense of grounding, delivering with abundant good humor a fully realized, consistently surprising, and thoroughly amusing tale of longing, love, madness, and mirth.” — Publishers Weekly, (Starred Review)

“DeWitt takes full advantage of the way his fairy-tale setting allows him to present outlandish events in the deadpan manner also exploited by Salman Rushdie in his new novel. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Undermajordomo Minor are also bookends of a sort — the one resting on the Eastern fairy tale tradition (1,001 Arabian Nights) and the Western (the Brothers Grimm) — and both have abrupt transitions of what Rushdie described as the ‘pumpkins turn into carriages’ sort … it is that unsettling modern sensibility that lies at the heart of deWitt’s appeal as a writer. It’s often hard to like his intensely self-absorbed characters, and even harder not to care what becomes of them.” — Maclean’s

“Hilarious … The world deWitt gives us is generous, and the protagonist is someone we’re happy to follow. The novel proposes somewhat gently that the pursuit of a painful thing might just be the point, rather than the moment the quest is over — and deWitt illustrates that sweetly. The trip then might be enough for us: funny, sad, violent and illuminated by a minor light.” — Washington Post


Governor General’s Literary Award Winner
Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Winner
Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal Winner
Canadian Booksellers Association Libris Award: Fiction Book of the Year Winner
Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award Winner
Oregon Book Awards: Ken Kesey Award for Fiction Winner
Man Booker Prize for Fiction Finalist
Scotiabank Giller Prize Finalist
CBC Bookie Awards: Literary Fiction Finalist
Walter Scott Prize Finalist
CBA Libris Award: Author of the Year Finalist
GOOGLE PLAY™ International Author of the Year Finalist
Globe and Mail Top 100 Book
Publishers Weekly Best Book Best Books: Editors’ Pick Best Books: Canadian Fiction
Quill & Quire Book of the Year
Toronto Star Reviewers’ Top 100 Books
Maclean’s Magazine Best Books
Named One of Canada’s Best Writers by the Irish Times

The Sisters Brothers is a bold, original, and powerfully compelling work, grounded in well-drawn characters and a firm hold on narrative. When they say, ‘They don’t write ’em like that anymore,’ they’re wrong.” — Globe and Mail

The Sisters Brothers confirms Patrick deWitt as one of the most talented young writers around.” — Sunday Times

“A powerfully realized work of narrative fiction … the dialogue is sharp as a whip … the novel works artfully within its formal boundaries to explore the nature of brotherhood, work, love, greed, loneliness, and personal renewal.” — Times Literary Supplement

“Weirdly funny, startlingly violent, and steeped in sadness … It’s all rendered irresistible by Eli Sisters, who narrates with a mixture of melancholy and thoughtfulness … After capturing the fireside camps and saloons in perfectly drawn vignettes, deWitt strips these two lethal brothers of more than they ever thought a man could lose. And then, damned if he doesn’t surprise us again with a twilight scene that’s just miraculously lovely.” — Washington Post

“There never was a more engaging pair of psychopaths than Charlie and Eli Sisters … So subtle is deWitt’s prose, so slyly note-perfect his rendition of Eli’s voice in all its earnestly charming nineteenth-century syntax, and so compulsively readable his bleakly funny Western noir story, that readers will stick by Eli even as he grinds his heel into the shattered skull of an already dead prospector.” — Maclean’s

“Fresh, hilariously anti-heroic, often genuinely chilling, and relentlessly compelling. Yes, this is a mighty fine read, and deWitt a mighty fine writer.” — National Post

“Okay, so it does take a Canadian to write a truly great Western novel of daunting, surrealist panache and rooted in unwavering empathy — and that just about sums up the dark, profound achievement which is The Sisters Brothers.” — Irish Times


“DeWitt delves deeply and unflinchingly into an addict’s mind, bearing witness to what happens to a man as a drug renders him inhuman … Ablutions has achieved something remarkable.” — New York Times Book Review

“A brilliant inside view of addiction.” — Times (London)

“A brief, intense, and carefully sustained piece of writing about the blurry edges of existence, shot through with remarkable lucidity. Warning: Cheers it isn’t.” — Guardian

“DeWitt conjures up moments of both painful humor and tender beauty.” — Financial Times

“Read this rambling and gloriously downbeat novel … Melancholic, sentimental, and very funny.” — Harper’s Bazaar (UK)

“Patrick deWitt’s hilariously gloomy tale is a sober reminder to stick to the diet tonic water … The subtitle is ‘notes for a novel,’ but there is nothing unfinished about Ablutions. The sentences catch the light like drops of Jameson whiskey spilled as a drunk rushes for a puke.” — the Independent

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