French Exit. Patrick DeWitt.

DeWitt, Patrick. French Exit. Anansi, Toronto. 2018. F;6/19.

I liked DeWitt’s Sisters Brothers . Here he takes a different clear-cut genre (Comedy of Manners as opposed to Classic Western) and (calling it a Tragedy of Manners) combines clever old-fashioned high-class dialogue and writing with enough character and plot to leave us fairly happily convinced that he’s not just talking about rich idiots messing up their lives.

The grande dame is Frances, mama’s-boy Malcolm (although he’s enough of a man to keep us and his girlfriend interested)’s mum, who blows a fortune made by her vicious criminal lawyer husband after he dies, and then drags Malcolm over to Paris where they gather a bunch of random interesting characters and end up… well… things turn out as they turn out.

It could be argued that the Main Idea of this story is Love. Family love, erotic love, romantic love, friendship, honour and honesty in relationships, conflict among closely-held points of view in the setting of relationships, the whole gamut of Greek varieties of the idea. But nobody necessarily talks about love or even importantly practices it.

I kept reading and didn’t get annoyed by the archaic conservative silliness of DeWitt’s assumed point of view. It seemed in a way the sillier it was the happier I got, because as usual where an artist manages something beautiful it doesn’t that much matter what form that beauty actually takes. I suppose in this kind of a short-snapper review that would be my comment on what Patrick DeWitt is “saying”: Watch me. How ridiculous does this have to be before you understand it’s the beauty, my human appreciation of life, that this is all about.

Recommended. 8.4/9.0

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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