The Scapegoat Paperback
Part of the Virago Modern Classics series
'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 realised, 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.'By chance, two men - one English, the other French - meet in a provincial railway station. Their resemblance is uncanny, and they spend the next few hours talking and drinking - until at last John, the Englishman, falls into a drunken stupor. It's to be his last carefree moment, for when he wakes, his French companion has stolen his identity and disappeared. So John steps into the Frenchman's shoes, and faces a variety of perplexing roles - as owner of a chateau, director of a failing business, head of a fractious family, and master of nothing.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 384 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
- Publication Date: 01/04/2004
- Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
- ISBN: 9781844080977
- EPUB from £4.99
Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.
Review by helen295
What would you do if you came face to face with yourself? That's what happens to John, an Englishman on holiday in France, when he meets his exact double - a Frenchman called Jean de Gue. John agrees to go for a drink with Jean but falls into a drunken stupor and wakes up in a hotel room to find that Jean has disappeared, taking John's clothes and identity documents with him!When Jean's chauffeur arrives at the hotel, John is unable to convince him of what has happened - and ends up accompanying the chauffeur to Jean de Gue's chateau, where the Frenchman's unsuspecting family assume that he really is Jean de Gue. Naturally, they expect him to continue running the family glass-making business and arranging shooting parties - things that John has absolutely no experience in. Before long, it starts to become obvious that Jean is using John as a scapegoat; Jean's family and business are both in a mess and he wants someone else to have to deal with them.Throughout the book, I was forced to revise my opinions once or twice about what was really going on. If everything in the book is supposed to be taken literally, then we need to suspend belief at times: could two men really be so identical that even their mother, wife and daughter can't tell the difference? There is also another way to interpret the story, one which goes deeper into the psychology of identity - I won't say any more about that here, but if you read the book this theory may occur to you too.As usual, du Maurier's writing is wonderfully atmospheric. She has a way of making you feel as though you're actually there in the hotel room in Le Mans, the grounds of Jean de Gue's estate in the French countryside and Bela's antique shop in the town of Villars.When John first arrives at the de Gue chateau, every member of the household is a stranger to him but we (and John) are given enough clues to gradually figure out who each person is and what their relationship is to Jean de Gue. From the neglected pregnant wife and the hostile elder sister to the resentful younger brother and the religious ten-year-old daughter, every character is well-drawn and memorable.Another thing I love about Daphne du Maurier's writing is her ability to always keep the reader guessing right to the final page (and sometimes afterwards too). This was a fascinating and unusual story, one of my favourite du Maurier books so far.
Review by startingover
Thoroughly ingenious and inventive story of an Englishman, John, who meets his double, a French aristocrat, who decides to let John take over his life. John, when he arrives at the chateau, finds complicated family relationships and a failing family business, a glass foundry. Jean's character is very different from John's, and what begins as a game becomes something much more serious and destructive. [Oct 2004]
Review by tina1969
By chance, two men - one English, the other French - meet in a provincial railway station. Their physical resemblance is uncanny, and they spend the next few hours talking and drinking - until at last John, the Englishman, falls into a drunken stupour. It's to be his last carefree moment, for when he wakes, his French companion has stolen his identity and disappeared. So John steps into the Frenchman's shoes, and faces a variety of perplexing roles - as owner of a chateau, director of a failing business, head of a fractious family, and master of nothing.My Thoughts:This wasn’t my favourite book by Daphne du Maurier. My all time favouite is ‘Rebecca’ and I feel that it has lot to live up too. I do love books that have the rambling old houses and the creepy housekeeper. This one doesn’t but there is still a mixed bag of interesting characters.Daphne du Maurier does diverstify with her books. She writes about rambling houses in the likes of ‘Rebecca’then there is time travel in ‘The House on the Strand’, then this book I would say is in the thriller genre.There may be spoiler in this section. I did enjoy the book, I can’t say that I didn’t but there was just something missing. I think it needed to be a bit more sinister. At the end of the book John was going to kill Jean to continue living his life but is actions were stopped. The book for me would have been better at the end if John had killed Jean and then turned John from perhaps the good guy to the bad. Another ending couldhave been that the gun went off and you didn’t know whether it was John or Jean that survived. That just me !However I am glad I reead this book and would highly recommend reading Daphne du Maurier and it will be interesting to watch the new ITV drama of the book.
Review by pgmcc
This is another novel from Daphne Du Maurier that I enjoyed. It was also a novel that worked on several levels for me. I find I cannot discuss this novel without talking about key plot elements so I will hide my comments behind the spoiler mask. If you have not read the novel further reading of this review could damage your enjoyment of it at some future date. You have been warned.<spoiler>On the surface it is an interesting tale of two identical men meeting and who swap identities, albeit unintentionally on the part of one of the men. The novel follows the experiences of the unwilling participant in this exchange as he discovers that he is trapped in the other man’s identity with no proof that he is someone else.In the first chapter of the book this man, an English lecturer in French History who has impeccable French, had been pondering how much of a failure he has been and how he wishes to seek advice in a secluded monastery. He has been feeling that while he loves France and has studied France in detail, he is still an outsider. The exchange changes that, but lumbers him with all the problems faced by his doppelganger.The obvious flaw in the novel is the idea of someone being taken for another person so completely that the other person’s family never suspects that he is someone else. Also suspect is the idea of an English man being taken as French in France.I do not, however, consider this pertinent to the story. We can suspend disbelieve and enjoy the story on face value, and it certainly brings some interesting characters into play and presents wonderfully complex relationships.On another level on could consider the novel as a meditation on an individual taking stock of his/her life and looking at it from another person’s viewpoint. The story shows one of the identical characters fixing many of the family problems of the other in the brief time he is with that family. He also comes to love these people, even though they are flawed and, let’s be honest, downright obnoxious in some cases.I do not think a male writer would get away without criticism today if he created a character like Bela, Jean de Gué’s mistress. She is undemanding, wise and totally available to the Comte. I can see how Du Maurier needed her as a mechanism for the main character to receive some advice from a source that was not at the centre of the family. She provides comparisons between the main character and Monsieur Le Compte whose place he is in.In addition to a great story, Du Maurier has provided a few great quotes from the mouths of her characters. Below I present some of the ones I underlined as I read.<i>”…when war comes to one’s own doorstep, it isn’t tragic and impersonal any longer. It is just an excuse to vomit private hatred.”“There’s nothing wrong,” I said. “It’s just that, as an individual, I’ve failed in life.”“So have we all,” he said, “you, I, all the people here in the station buffet. We are every one of us failures. The secret of life is to recognize the fact early on, and become reconciled. Then it no longer matters.”He smiled at me, still nodding. “Come now,” he said, “it’s not as bad as that. Sometimes it’s a sort of indulgence to think the worst of ourselves. We say, “Now I have reached the bottom of the pit, now I can fall no further,” and it is almost a pleasure to wallow in the darkness. The trouble is, it’s not true. There is no end to the evil in ourselves, just as there is no end to the good. It’s a matter of choice. We struggle to climb, or we struggle to fall. The thing is to discover which way we’re going.”</spoiler>