By chance, John and Jean - one English, the other French - meet in a provincial railway station. Their resemblance to each other is uncanny, and they spend the next few hours talking and drinking - until at last John falls into a drunken stupor. It's to be his last carefree moment, for when he wakes, Jean has stolen his identity and disappeared. So the Englishman 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.
Gripping and complex, The Scapegoat is a masterful exploration of doubling and identity, and of the dark side of the self.
©2013, 1956, 1957 Daphne du Maurier (P)2014 Hachette Audio
"A dazzlingly clever and immensely entertaining novel." (New York Times)
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
John is an Englishman who has spent years travelling to France to learn of its history and language, going back to England to teach about his favourite subject at university for his day job. One day while on vacation, he chances to meet a man who looks exactly like him, a Frenchman called Jean. The likeness is uncanny and the other man offers him to share some drinks. After a night of heavy drinking in a hotel room exchanging confidences, John wakes up the next day dressed in the Frenchman's clothes with the man's suitcase there instead of his own, and not a single of his own belongings or identity papers left behind to prove he is anyone else than the Comte Jean de Gué. It becomes amply clear when this man's driver arrives and tells him he's probably had too much to drink after John tries to tell him what has happened, that he won't convince anyone that he is not in fact the Comte. His French is perfect, and for some reason, seeing himself in a mirror wearing the other man's clothes, he discovers the illusion is faultless; he stands a little bit more erect and even finds himself smiling and talking like his doppelgänger, so he decides there is no choice but to go along and play the role he's been stuck with, and lets the driver bring him to Jean de Gué's château to meet the other man's family. Jean had told him he yearned to have a simpler life, with less commitments and fewer belongings, while John felt he'd failed at his own life, and now is a chance to try something else altogether.
Soon John finds himself enmeshed in a complicated web of lies and intrigues, with a grand house full of women and various strangers, most of whom seem angry at him. And then there is a great big beastly woman upstairs he is astounded to find looks like himself but in drag with a huge amount of flesh added on; Jean's mother, which he can't help but call 'maman' and feel real affection for. Nobody takes him seriously when he tells them outright he is not Jean, but an Englishman called John, and that the real Jean has made off with his clothes and his car; they all dismiss his story as yet another one of Jean's pranks, or a consequence of too much drink. Instead a man angrily demands how the trip to Paris went and whether he's gotten the papers signed. John slowly untangles the mystery, starting with figuring out who the various individuals are, what Jean was meant to do in Paris, why everyone is angry with him, and then, taking a liking to the man's various family members and employees despite their faults of character, trying to improve everyone's life and atone for Jean's shortcomings, bumbling along all the while.
There is a certain amount of suspension of disbelief necessary to enjoy this novel as fully as I did. After all, how is it possible that the man's own family, even his own mother and daughter, not recognize that something isn't quite right here? Can John's accent be truly so faultless? Can't they 'see' these are two completely different personalities? But this character-driven story about identity and how one man views another through the eyes of others, and then tries to improve him according to his own set of very different principles, proved to be a fascinating journey. Highly recommended.
gerrymorAuburn, AL My favorites are books read by the authors. Janis Ian is superb.
Daphne has never let me down. I think I'll read some more old favorites of hers. Gerry
An Englishman takes the place of a Frenchman who looks just like him. He moves into the Frenchman's family home and involves himself in their family dynamics. The protagonist is not adopting the guise of a long lost relative, but someone everyone in the family knows well. And no one catches on? Other than the pet? The story, for me, was just impossible to believe. And, the wonderful, poetic writing aside, made this novel hard to enjoy.
Daphne du Maurier places her readers into an unlikely opportunity- to live someone else's life. This is a beautifully written story that allows us to question our lives and the lives of others. Why do we behave the way we do? What would someone else think of our little existence? Can someone else live it better or would they crumble under the responsibility?
Read this and you will experience the life of a man through his imposter.
Daphne du Maurier has become one of my favorite authors. This is another of her well-plotted,suspenseful, beautifully written novels. Excellent narration.
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