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.
"A dazzlingly clever and immensely entertaining novel."-New York Times
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AudioBook Review: Stars: Overall 4 Narration 4 Story 4
Stars: Overall 4 Narration 4 Story 4
Heading back to some classics that I first read long ago, the opportunity to listen to the story in AudioBook was too good a chance to pass up. You will be familiar with the story: a remote railway station brings the story of a doppelganger meeting, two strangers share a meal and wine, only to find that the Englishman, John awakes to find himself as Jean, and assumes his life.
du Maurier’s writing is clever, opening possibilities and examining broken people all done with few words and elaborate description. Cleverly making the lives of John and Jean so vastly different, reflecting the personalities and intentions of each, the transformation of John into chateau owner, managing a failing business, placating a fractious family and satisfying not one, but two mistresses, the potential for this story to become farcical or a rapid downhill slide into recrimination and remorse is high.
Despite all of the dramatics and high stakes issues, John comes to care for this new life and family, and is doing his best to repair the damages caused by Jean. Slowly but surely, things start to take a turn for the better, and an unexpected windfall for the business brings Jean back to the fold.
Tension, relationships and the ever-present juggling of situations is John’s forte, and with characterization and interactions playing a major part in this story, readers are instantly sucked in, wondering just how he can manage it all, with just an evening’s conversation to present the barest outline of the players and situations.
Narration for this story is provided by Paul Shelley, and his voice is wonderfully adept, mixing nuanced changes in pitch, tone and delivery to delineate the characters. Adding the underlying frustration and exasperation to John as he is thrust into this situation, and showing the subtle changes in the interactions that show his growing affections for the members of this new family. Without overacting or overpowering the words he is delivering, the performance is a solid one, allowing the story to shine.
I received an AudioBook copy of the title from Hachette Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.