I’m slowly reading my way through all of Daphne du Maurier’s books. I find that Daphne books all have such intriguing premises. The Scapegoat is about two physically identical strangers who meet by chance. One man is an English academic called John who is touring around France. He’s depressed and dissatisfied with his life. John has little in his life apart from his job as a historian giving lectures about French history. The other stranger is a charming Frenchman named Jean.
John drinks too much with his doppelganger and wakes up to find all his belongings missing – clothes, car, wallet, id. His identity has been stolen and in its place is Jean’s clothes and id.
Instead of going to the police (like a normal person), John decides to step into the Frenchman’s chaotic life as the head of a warring family, director of a failing business and owner of a crumbling chateau. As he arrives at the chateau he is greeted by many people – women, men and a child – and he has to piece together who they are and their relationship to Jean. Shockingly, no one seems to realise that he isn’t the real Jean.
It soon becomes apparent that the real Jean is a complicated man with a complicated family life. He is a man who is the center of his family but who is not especially good to them, or beloved by them. Is it possible that John can make an actual difference by stepping into the shoes of another man? I’ll leave the plot here as The Scapegoat is best experienced without any spoilers.
Daphne du Maurier’s characters are very much morally grey which makes for interesting reading. Even when they try to do the right thing there are often unforeseen consequences. The Scapegoat provides a lot of food for thought. If you could swap lives with someone, would you do it? What’s best: a life with no connections where you can do what you please, or a life with responsibilities?
I loved the suspense in this book and the gradual unpeeling of the many layers. I had no idea what would happen next or how this book would end. At first the ending left me wanting more, but in hindsight it was probably a realistic ending.
Verdict: I really enjoyed The Scapegoat and look forward to discovering more amazing books by Daphne du Maurier.
Here are my other Daphne du Maurier reviews: