Daphne du Maurier – The Scapegoat

After enjoying Rebecca so much I am on a Daphne Du Maurier rediscovery.  I always like to take a book on holiday that is set in the country I am visiting so this was a great choice for my trip to France.

The story is one of suspense like Rebecca, but lacks the romance element. When the lonely, depressed, history obsessed (see it’s not all bad) Englishman John meets his doppelganger Jean in French bar his life changes forever.  He wakes up the next morning to find that Jean has stolen his identity and left him to take on his life that he has left behind.  Now of course this sounds implausible, especially the fact that John just goes along with it and makes little attempt to get back his own life or indeed ever think of it again, however Du Maurier writes in a way that makes this seem believable and thrilling.

It turns out that Jean is a French count who lives in a chateau with his wife,  his brother and sister who hate him, his sinister mother and religion-fixated daughter who both worship him, and his sister in law with whom he is having an affair.  As well as this complicated familial situation Jean has also virtually ruined the family business, their glass factory.  He is facing bankruptcy unless his wife has a son or dies before him, due to her father’s strange provisions in his will.

John finds he enjoys being part of this family despite the fact they are all a bit mad and throws himself into Jean’s life even beginning to inwardly take on his personality; however along the way he discovers lots of sinister events both in the present and during the period of the German occupation.

This is a great mystery and a really interesting study of identity, although slightly overlong and I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good thriller.

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