Saturday, August 4, 2018
The Scapegoat (Virago Modern Classics) Paperback – April 1, 2004 by Daphne Du Maurier (Author), Lisa Appignanesi (Introduction) (Virago Press Ltd)
What would you do if you one day meet your exact body double? And what would you do if this body double came along at the best possible time? That's what happens to Jean de Gue, a French aristocrat who wants to escape from his personal responsibilities. He meets "John," a lonely, bored English history professor on holiday in France. One night of drinking, sharing and mischief turns to the improbable when John wakes up the next morning in the hotel room alone, with all of his possessions gone -- all except for his identical companion's belongings. Before he knows it, he is taken to de Gue's estate, where he encounters the man's entire family. In one week, he learns all of Jean's secrets, most of which include deception and cruelty. The family business is in trouble, Jean's daughter has some quirks, Jean's sister hasn't spoken to him in fifteen years, his mother is addicted to morphine and his wife is having his second child. Will this reluctant impostor help the family or make things worse?
There is a lot of symbolism in this novel. I couldn't put it down. It is amazing how people believe what they want to believe, even if something is staring at them right in the face. There is also the thing about spending a lifetime with someone and not know them at all, as it is the case with Jean de Gue and his dysfunctional relationship with his mother, sister and brother. I enjoy Daphne du Maurier's first-person narrative and contemporary novels (set and published in the 1950s) better than her period novels written in third person. John's language is precise, insightful and beautiful, and even though he is naive at times, it just makes him all the more appealing. He lacks Jean's malice, and that is just one of several things that makes him different from his otherwise identical "friend." The ending is a little disappointing, but it does leave you thinking about love and life. All in all, I enjoyed The Scapegoat. I think I like this just as much as Rebecca. A wonderful piece of fiction. I look forward to reading more of du Maurier's work.