The Scapegoat

The Scapegoat

Book - 1957
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"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 chateau, director of a failing business, head of a large and embittered family, and keeper of too many secrets.

Loaded with suspense and crackling 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 chateau.

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.

Publisher: Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, c1957.
Edition: [Book Club edition]
ISBN: 9780812217254
Characteristics: 348 pages ;,22 cm.


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Aug 27, 2015

Despite the fact that the entire central premise of this novel is not the slightest bit believable, du Maurier's skill as a story teller enables her to pull it off. While it's conceivable that a person might so closely resemble another as to fool almost everyone on sight, surely their voices and speech patterns could hardly be identical, especially considering that one is French and the other born and raised English. But it's such a good yarn that one is prepared to accept the possibility and after that, the story goes merrily on its way. Having John stumble onto Bela, whose identity he could not have known and effortlessly waltz right into her welcoming arms is also far-fetched, but if we're going to accept the entire idea in the first place, well we might as well accept that as well.
This book lacks some of the gothic, brooding gloominess of du Maurier's Cornwall novels -- and I guess that's a good thing. Her language, albeit very literate, is straightforward enough to not get in the way. The characters, although lightly drawn, are convincing. Her portrayal of the overly precocious 10-year-old is fascinating despite being exaggerated for effect.
One minor quibble: The author's tidying-up of the new roles for all the family members is a bit too neat. And finally, a major quibble: For my taste, du Maurier's choice to end the story the way she did was a bit disappointing, especially after Jean had played not just one but two dirty tricks on him (to avoid spoilers, I say no more about that).

Jan 11, 2015

An Englishman travelling in France meets a duplicate of himself on a country railway station. After a night of drinking at an hotel,the Englishman discovers that the Frenchman has left him to take over his identity and all his responsibilities.. Most enjoyable and very,very clever.There is a tiny glitch towards the end but I won't elaborate and it is hardly noticeable. A film was made of the same name but set entirely in England in 1952. The end was completely different and it worked.

Apr 06, 2011

It's a slow start, but once you get past the first few chapters you won't be able to put it down. Another favorite from Daphne du Maurier.

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