The Scapegoat (Virago Modern Classics)
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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. I found the book very thought provoking.
This story is told by John, an Englishman who teaches French history at the university. While on holidays in France, he finds himself in the place of a doppelgänger and feels strangely compelled to hold up to that almost untenable situation. As the days pass, we find out, along with John, who is who in the large family of Jean ('Monsieur le Comte'), the relationships between them and the past events that led to the present state of affairs. was a historian and gave lectures in England about his country and it's past. Not married - and has no children.Next, the book correlates with the time period's predicaments and provides district perspectives. For instance, the "increasing rigidificaiton of gender roles in the aftermath of World War Two" (Horner 157) is examined in the characterizations. The men, Paul, Jacque and Jean, of the de Gue family are the ones expected to run the glass foundry business and set up the hunting event, while the women, Renee and Francoise, live simple, domestic lives. A poignant discussion between Jean and a glass foundry worker explores an outside and inside perspective of what it was like for a non-soldier to work during the war. Jean vs John both of their appearances are the same and both speak relatively the same in voice. French vs English. High society life vs dull drum life. Family of complexity vs no Family. So why not take advantage of the situation and switch lives! Anyone that has ever hungered to be a part of a group, but yet always felt as a stranger, will relate to John here. What should happen, however, if you had the opportunity to take someone’s place? Would you do it? When John bumps into an exact likeness of himself in a tavern, he is given precisely this chance. While John is a lonely man with a feeling of emptiness inside, Comte Jean de Gué claims to have only the problem of having too many ‘human’ possessions. Jean wants to play a clever game – that of switching identities with John and assuming each other’s lives. When John wakes the next morning, stripped of his own clothes and everything he had on his person, what choice does he have but to put on another man’s clothes, take his suitcase and assume this new life?
This story about two men who switch identities is so much more that what it seems on the surface. It brings a lot of self-introspection and often times has the reader asking, "What would I do in this situation?" The are memorable characters you won't soon (if ever) forget. The conflict is decidedly resolved in the way that works best, though, initially, I was not so sure of that. Gee, I got so many likes when I was just having a whinge, I don't know why I'm bothering to write a review! 😁 Feeling that the police will think him mad, feeling in truth somewhat mad, he allows himself to be taken to a rundown chateau in the country, where he is not suspected by anyone in the family. In this post WWII setting, the three generations live in genteel poverty amid bitterness and a failing glass factory.Trying to walk in someone else's shoes can be a valuable experience - you can learn a lot about yourself. However, by trying to rectify someone else's mistakes of the past you are running the risk of getting emotionally involved with the people who have nothing to do with you and the place where you do not belong. I've often fantasized about escaping my own life and transplanting somewhere else entirely. Better yet, trade places with my dog, Zelda. Du Maurier explores that idea here, through the characters of John (the English man) and Jean (the French man) who meet by chance one night and discover that while they might be strangers, they look exactly alike. Time for the old switcheroo?
Forgotten the title or the author of a book? Our BookSleuth is specially designed for you. Visit BookSleuthThe writing is really good and du Maurier is great at creating tension. The reading became compulsive, as I yearned to know what would happen next and how would John get himself out of the several situations that presented to him. I was especially curious to find out how everything would come about in the end. And it was precisely the ending that I found disappointing, although it's perfectly adequate. After all the suspense that built up in the last chapters, the end was a bit of an anticlimax... He has inherited a troubled family, a struggling business, and another life to one side of that, all rooted in and shaped by a history that he knows nothing about. At first John feels that he has is watching a play, but of course he is an actor not a spectator. He plays the part of Jean, and that frees him from the aspects of John’s life that disappoint him and allows him to live a very different life, but that comes at a price. Daphne du Maurier had the idea for The Scapegoat when she was in France in 1955, to research the lives of her ancestors, the Busson-Mathurins, who were glass-blowers. She did subsequently write the novel for which she intended this research, entitling it "The Glassblowers" (1963). But before writing it, she became distracted by a number of incidents that happened to her in France, which inspired the plot of The Scapegoat, published in 1957. She apparently wrote it at record speed, finishing within six months, and then collapsed with nervous exhaustion.