To give you some context, I read this book a while ago and just forgot to write a review, so my memory of it isn’t quite as fresh as I would like it to be.
Frances Price and her son Malcolm are idly rich New Yorkers who have been gradually spending down the fortune accrued by their husband and father Frank, a cutthroat lawyer who neither of them had much feeling for by the end. At long last, their accountant gives them the bad news that the money is all but gone. The Prices sell everything that can be sold and use the proceeds to finance a trip to Paris, where a friend has agreed to let them live in her apartment.
Frances and Malcolm are irresponsible and impractical in ways that are perhaps intended to come across as satirical and endearing but more frequently land on exasperating and asinine. Their casual indifference toward the damage they inflict on others and even on themselves is hard to tolerate. They are carelessly cruel and cruelly careless.
As their spendthrift ways continue, the Prices accrue a ragtag bunch of hangers-on and sycophants whose interest in and adoration of the Prices will be hard for the reader to reconcile. Frances is described as a great beauty, but it’s hard to understand her appeal beyond that. And yet, characters line up one by one to help her and console her.
I’m sure Patrick DeWitt knew what he was doing, but at times reading French Exit felt a little like being told a story at a party by someone who clearly thought it was hilarious when it was actually the saddest story you’d ever heard.