on December 17, 2013
By chance, John and Jean--one English, the other French--meet in a provincial railway station. Their resemblance to each other is uncanny, and they spend the next few hours talking and drinking - until at last John falls into a drunken stupor. It's to be his last carefree moment, for when he wakes, Jean has stolen his identity and disappeared. So the Englishman steps into the Frenchman's shoes, and faces a variety of perplexing roles - as owner of a chateau, director of a failing business, head of a fractious family, and master of nothing.
Gripping and complex, The Scapegoat is a masterful exploration of doubling and identity, and of the dark side of the self.
The first thing I think of when I hear “Identical Strangers” is Dumas’ famed Man in the Iron Mask. This is what prompted me to choose The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier.
Impressions While Reading
My thought process was even confirmed by du Maurier when she states in chapter two when Jean and John first meet.
We did not speak: we went on staring at one another. I had heard of these things happening, of people who met casually and turned out to be long-lost cousins, or twins parted at birth; and the idea is amusing, or perhaps fraught with tragedy, like the Man in the Iron Mask.
That was just it, “like the Man in the Iron Mask.” This plot had been done before, and many times after du Maurier as well. Affairs, religion, cads and death are now stale no matter how Gothic, despite du Maurier unique sense of writing and originality at the time. It moved slow and became predictable. John playing Jean became repetitive with his constant questioning of who, what, when, where and why. While I did despise Jean, who’s thoughtlessness caused the conundrum I did not find his “Philippe” endearing or saying aw, poor thing. Instead I just marched along. To be truthful, the only character I did like was his mistress Belle. She was the only character who had their head on straight.
Compared to Rebecca and with a “been there, seen that” plot this was not one of du Maurier’s best, or perhaps it just didn’t translate well. Either way it cannot be denied that Daphne du Maurier is a master storyteller, who I do plan to explore more of.
This was my contribution to the Explore the Classics Daphne du Maurier tour