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Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"A dazzlingly clever and immensely entertaining novel." ( New York Times)

What members say

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  • Ilana
  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 03-16-15

A Fascinating Character-Driven Journey

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.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Liane
  • Oceanside, CA
  • 09-09-17

One of her finest.

After falling in love with Rebecca, I have read every one of Daphne's novels. This is probably in my top three. Highly recommend it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Classic psychological thriller

I have loved this author since I was a kid. This book is just another great example of her talent. This will draw you in and you will feel like another character in the book. This book is work of art.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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What would a stranger think of your life? Would they live it better?

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Gerry
  • Auburn, AL, United States
  • 06-04-15

Wonderfully entertaining

Daphne has never let me down. I think I'll read some more old favorites of hers. Gerry

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Another Great book by Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier has become one of my favorite authors. This is another of her well-plotted,suspenseful, beautifully written novels. Excellent narration.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Unputdownable

Various other reviewers have offered the caveat along the lines of "suspend disbelief and read/enjoy this book." I was able to thoroughly enjoy the book without ever really needing to overcome disbelief because the storyline and its telling were so strong as to not give me any real pause. That's not to say that I'm gullible, simply that Ms. Du Maurier's narrative is as superlative as ever, possibly even better than Rebecca. Surely not? You be the judge of that. Either way, the narrative is just excellent and totally engrossing, and Paul Shelley's narration merely adds a little icing on top. Un-put-down-able, as my headline states.

The book, after a brief slow start through John/Jean's initial meeting, is both spellbinding and transfixing. We share the narrator's experience and trepidation of walking in another man's shoes - literally - and are willing him to not put a foot wrong, which he does regardless, and, to his incredulity, his part of the deception remains undiscovered by any family member, of the human variety at least.

Further, his love for the real Jean de Gué's family and his distaste for the man's apparent selfishness is shared by the reader. His discomfort at the circumstances in which he finds himself, and his willing collaboration with the deception, causes not judgement from the reader; rather, we wish him success in the plans he sets in motion, thereby exposing our own active entanglement in his scheme also.

The ending comes swiftly, too swiftly, and leaves the reader feeling cheated, wishing to tarry a little longer. I for one, could have happily endured a full year with both Jean de Gué one and two to see what the future holds for them and the family.

That it was written in the late fifties (1957) is only evidenced by an event that took place during the WWII occupation of France having only occurred fifteen years earlier, and the narrator's car being a Ford Consul, a 1950's-early 60's British model. These points aside, the story could so easily have occurred just within the last two or three decades quite easily.

Do yourself a favour; listen to this book. I dare to venture that it will become an instant favourite of yours as it has mine.

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I love DDM

It wandered a bit but I'm glad I finished it will watch the movie Rebecca 1


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Ending Options

The narrator read it very well. There could have been so many different ending possibilities and guess this ending was as good as any. I think I would have liked a little happier ending. But I don't know how a happier ending could have been achieved.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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My favorite Daphne DuMaurier book so far!

If you could sum up The Scapegoat in three words, what would they be?

Couldn't put it down!

What did you like best about this story?

Great premise for a story and well written!

Any additional comments?

I started this book on audio but was so hooked, I also bought it on Kindle for $2.99 because I could not put it down!