Books »The Scapegoat

the scapegoat daphne du maurierIt makes complete sense that The Scapegoat reads like a black and white movie. Most of Daphne du Maurier's work has been adapted into wildly successful films, including Don't Look Now, The Birds, and Rebecca. I even found out that this novel was adapted, though the Alec Guinness film turned out to be less timeless than the others.

The Scapegoat
tells the intriguing tale of a lonely English Francophone who meets his doppleganger in France one evening. After many drinks, he wakes up the next morning forced to take the place of his double who has ran off with his own identity. What follows is a tense game of deception. He finds he must carry himself off as the other man to an entire crumbling estate full of family and friends.

Quickly he learns that he has not only inherited a wife, a mother, a child, a sister, a brother, and several mistresses and servants, but all of the baggage and resentment his, or rather his double's, lousy past behavior has resulted in. He tries to right the wrongs of another man's past and grows to love the family and his new role passionately while constantly living with the fear of getting caught in the lie he has decided to live.

du Maurier explores the question of what is it that makes a person who they are. Is identity just skin deep? In some ways it seems it so, as he manages to fool his entire family despite odd behavior simply because he looks exactly like the man they know so well. This is a satisfying book, that feels old fashioned and classic like the movies and books commonly associated with this stunning author. Though the ending feels rather unfair.

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Posted on January 7, 2008

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