I realized my love for Daphne du Maurier’s work while reading Rebecca last summer. Du Maurier lured me into her novel with beguilingly beautiful prose and eloquent descriptions. I found myself wishing to revisit her tone and writing style this summer, so I checked out a copy of The Scapegoat from the library.
It was a success.
The Scapegoat, like Rebecca, is a ridiculously multifaceted story. There are sides of excitement and adventure as well as prolonged moments of dolefulness and darkness. The story starts with an English professor who teaches French history, John, who is traveling around France. John runs into his doppelgänger, Jean, a carefree though simultaneously troubled Frenchman. In a twist of events, John ends up left alone in a hotel room with Jean’s clothes, identification, and car, with Jean having escaped with all of John’s possessions.
Nobody, not even Jean’s own daughter, recognizes the switch, and it’s quite interesting to see how John maneuvers himself around a family of strangers. He must figure out relations, personalities, and history while trying to keep up his facade. The first third of the book is more relaxed, with John taking into account his new surroundings and ‘family members’. The rest of the novel then begins to dip down into the shadows. You read about the griminess of greed and watch as family members destroy each others’ lives with the expression of base human characteristics.
I was surprised, at first, because I felt as though The Scapegoat would be a lighter read. The story seemed merely to delve into a common fantasy of escaping one’s life and living that of another. But then it took that classic du Maurier turn and it was no longer a simply buoyant book. This is not a bad thing, however, because it lends a depth to the story that is, as much as we deny it, necessary. Happy-happy books are great from time to time, but they don’t always leave me with a lasting impression. Maybe that’s why At the Sign of the Jack O’Lantern didn’t appeal to me as much. It was a little frivolously boring…I don’t know what I’m trying to say anymore. 😐
Here is a more collected thought: I like books that don’t dump me in a dark, damp ditch, but I don’t enjoy novels that subsist on sunshine and fairy dust. I need a little snack for my imagination, some food for deeper thought, and a nice draught of deliciously devised sentences. The Scapegoat provided all three of these components to my idea of a perfect book, deeming it spectacular.
Happy Day, and if you decide to read The Scapegoat, Happy Reading!
post scriptus: If you’ve read The Scapegoat already, what did you think of the ending?