"Someone jolted my elbow as I drank and said, 'Je vous demande pardon,' and as I moved to give him space he turned and stared at me and I at him, and I realized, with a strange sense of shock and fear and nausea all combined, that his face and voice were known to me too well.
I was looking at myself."
Two men--one English, the other French--meet by chance in a provincial railway station and are astounded that they are so much alike that they could easily pass for each other. Over the course of a long evening, they talk and drink. It is not until he awakes the next day that John, the Englishman, realizes that he may have spoken too much. His French companion is gone, having stolen his identity. For his part, John has no choice but to take the Frenchman's place--as master of a chteau, director of a failing business, head of a large and embittered family, and keeper of too many secrets.
Loaded with suspense and wit, The Scapegoat tells the double story of the attempts by John, the imposter, to escape detection by the family, servants, and several mistresses of his alter ego, and of his constant and frustrating efforts to unravel the mystery of the enigmatic past that dominates the existence of all who live in the chteau.
Hailed by the New York Times as a masterpiece of "artfully compulsive storytelling," The Scapegoat brings us Daphne du Maurier at the very top of her form.
About the Author
Dame Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989) wrote more than twenty-five acclaimed novels, short stories, and plays, including Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, The House on the Strand, Frenchman's Creek, and "The Birds."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful: Extremely Satisfying and Thought Provoking, November 17, 2002 Reviewer: reneofc from Kenner, LA USA How anyone can say that "The Scapegoat" is slow leaves me dumbfounded. The week in the life of British historian and lecturer, John, posing as Jean, the impoverished Comte of the chateau de Gue is a journey of the mythic hero, going off into unknown territory and accomplishing a mission where he is thereby transformed. Before the switch, John feels like a voyeur, reading and studying people from a distance rather than actually living in the midst of them. Once he is immersed in Jean's life, he cannot help but feel---as the comte, every decision he makes, effects numerous lives. Like other Du Maurier male characters, John finds as a male he holds the power; the woman flutter about him, allowing and acquiesing to his indisputed control. John believes he becomes a newer,better version of Jean as he interacts with Jean's mother, sister, wife, brother and wife; what he doesn't realize is that in enacting this transformation he can never go back to the life he once knew;his newfound strength sacrifices the 'scapegoat' of the title; with this death, the chateau and its remaining personel are revitalized with a new life. Du Maurier's undertaking of having John speak in a first person narrative succeeds on every level. The reader experiences all the surprises and revelations through John's eyes and tender heart. Her portrayal of Marie-Noel, Jean's eleven year old daughter, borders on genius; the character springs off the pages, a concatenation of cartwheeling free spirit and religious waif, confused by the seemingly nonsensical activities of the adults around her. Du Maurier masterfully illustrates the old adage 'there are two sides to every story' throughout the novel as well-meaning John's actions loose something as they are translated by the other dwellers in the Chateau and by Jean himself. Throughout the book, I wondered if Du Maurier, like Jean was playing an elaborate joke on the reader as well---could Jean and John be the same person? On a whim, Jean pretending to be a stranger, conveniently forgets the past and initiates changes that he otherwise could not consciously facilitate? Interesting. Obviously, the novel is highly recommended to all.