This book did my head in, in a good way. The ending was astounding. And I loved how you have to wonder about certain characters/things that happened after the fact. Really well done by du Maurier. The only reason why I gave this 4 stars though is that parts of this book are so freaking slow. It feels at times things are moving underwater and then they pick up again. I get du Maurier is setting the stage so to speak though with John of course not understanding all of the undercurrents going on in the family. And the slow reveal to things after a while started to work my nerves just a slight bit. For example, the reveal about Blanche and why she stopped speaking to Jean for 15 years took a long time to get out.
“The Scapegoat” follows John who is wondering what is the point of things when he runs into a Frenchman named Jean. The two men look exactly alike though John is English (and speaks French very well). After eating and drinking together, John is cajoled into returning with Jean to his rooms. When he wakes up the next day, Jean is gone, and a chauffeur is standing there to take him (John as Jean now) back to the family chateau. John is dismayed and has no way of proving who he is because Jean stole his stuff. So John goes along and returns to Jean’s family and finds himself involved with a family that is struggling to survive and also let go of past bitterness. John feels as if Jean has left him to be his scapegoat because he is too afraid to be there and witness what may come.
John steps reluctantly into Jean’s shoes, but finds himself growing comfortable there when he starts to see how he can make things better for Jean’s brother, sister, mother, wife, and daughter. As a character says to him later, he has a tenderness about him. And you can’t help rooting for John at times to keep up fooling everyone. The book was very interesting. You can see why Jean just said screw it and walked. And I saw him as a terrible character myself. But I loved another person’s insights into Jean later on.
The writing was very good, though the flow was slow. It did take a while to understand who everyone is and why they had issues with Jean.
I did love the ending. I thought it was going one way, but it went another.