April 30, 2019 · 12:13 am
What. A. Delight. Not in recent memory has a novel so tickled my enjoyment synapses (I’m not interested in knowing if such synapses actually exist. Spare me.). From page one, Patrick de Witt’s French Exit offers up the sardonic, the cheeky, the down right funny, and hits the reader with a full force of fun and playful, while also (probably) (definitely) exploring themes of …
Wait. What is this book actually about? If not about the fun and funny? It follows the fallen fortunes of Frances and Malcolm, tumbled from great wealth and esteem to a sort of poverty (I say sort of because they still manage to be in a fancy French apartment while faced with penury). Frances is a character in all the sense of the word, a sort of force of unflappable brilliance, and in watching her reconcile her vision of herself and her life with her newly arrived circumstances, I suppose we are meant to think through questions or morality and what makes for a good life. Maybe, too, whether it is the connections and relationships we foster that make any of it worthwhile. The founding of her friendship with Joan is one of the more delightful moments in an already incredibly charming book.
I’ll admit that where the book falls down is in its point, but on that I’m not particularly bothered. Like, I don’t mind that it skirts around big questions and instead lets Morality be morality, and Mortality, be mortality. Which is a way of saying there are ‘themes’ and ‘questions’ but the point of the book seems more to let the reader just. enjoy. reading. Through the whimsy and playfulness and fun of what Frances and Malcolm do, we’re allowed to appreciate with them the absurd and fanciful without always being bogged down with weighty questions. Ah. Perhaps there’s the rub. That as Frances and Malcolm too, have spent a lifetime avoiding anything Serious or Committed, we are given the luxury – not necessarily the wealth required for this particular luxury – of not thinking about very much, until we must think about it all.
Terrific writing – really: surprising, specific, not-showy-but-still-smart – and such. fun. Don’t come bickering with me later that it wasn’t about very much. I don’t care if you’ve forgotten how to just read because it feels good.
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September 5, 2012 · 4:18 am
I heard Patrick de Witt read from *The Sisters Brothers* in Hamilton last year, and the book excerpt – and the reading – was brilliant. The novel won the Governor General’s Award and the Writers Trust. It was shortlisted for the Giller and the Booker. N. told me to read it, so did J. and I. (in short all my most trusted recommenders). Yet it took being stranded in the airport with nothing to read – a battery dead on an ereader at the end of a vacation is a sure testament to the staying power of print – before I finally sat down (trapped on a plane) to read it.
Why my resistance? When the book is SO FUCKING GOOD?
I don’t know. I blame my disinterest in cowboys (even though I loved True Grit, The Englishman’s Boy and Lightening) (I think this means I’m not *actually* disinterested in cowboys so much as I *think* I should be disinterested in cowboys). I blame the title for making me think it was going to be about some boring sister and her brothers (sigh). Maybe I blame my own stand-off-ish-ness to historical fiction post-dissertation? Yeah, maybe that (in fact I think this is the secret of the life post thesis – or maybe not secret, but I’d never heard it talked about – and that is that when you finish four years of thinking about a particular genre almost exclusively, by the end of those four years you want absolutely nothing to do with that genre Ever Again even if it also happens to be your *favourite* genre. What a bind).
So anyway. I was wrong to wait this long. I should have read this the day it came out because (let me say it again) it is so. good. It’s dark, and funny, and features incredibly well developed characters, it asks questions about morality, will and choice, duty and what it means to be a gentle, man. It is really very, very good.
So yeah, sorry to N. and J. and I. I should have listened to you. My favourite part? Calling N. to tell him to go out and get the book Right Away and having him sigh and remind me that he recommended it to me months ago (he’s so good to put up with me).
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Filed under Booker Prize, Canadian Literature, Erin's Favourite Books, Fiction, Giller prize, Governor Generals, Historical Fiction, Prize Winner
Tagged as Booker Prize, canadian literature, gem, Giller prize, Governor General's Awards, historical fiction, Patrick de Witt, The Sisters Brothers, Writers Trust