French Exit (DeWitt) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for FRENCH EXIT … then take off on your own:

1. Patrick deWitt's French Exit is subtitled "A Tragedy of Manners." What does the subtitle mean?

2. Follow-up to Question 1: Despite the subtitle, there is much that is funny in this novel. What made you laugh (or chuckle)? In what way is this book also "a comedy of manners"—a genre that satirizes the hypocrisy of the privileged: people who value appearance over substance?

3. Katy Waldman in The New Yorker considers the opening sequence of French Exit a sort of tour de force. What do we learn in the first several pages about Frances Price and her son Malcolm? Does your attitude toward them change over the course of the novel? Do they elicit sympathy from you …or disgust …or laughter …or eye-rolling or… anything in particular?

4. "Do you know what a cliche is?" Frances asks her friend Joan. "It's a story so fine and thrilling that it's grown old in its hopeful retelling." What does she mean? How would you define cliche? And why does Frances bring up cliches in the first place?

5. What do we come to learn about the Price's marriage and about Malcolm's childhood? What kind of man was Franklin Price, and what was his relationship to—and the effect he had on—those closest to him?

6. Do the characters ever achieve true intimacy in the novel? Do they ever break out of deWitt's witty dialogue and narration?

7. Talk about the novel's conclusion, especially the twist at the end? What do you think will become of Malcolm?

8. Oh, and Small Frank? Care to comment?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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