Unrepentant at repeated single-author blogposts this book responds neatly to my tagging by Kirsty last week for a Friday Forgotten Book post. Picking up the baton within the Friday box (good handover Kirsty!) I race along with my Daphne reading and will continue to write about the books every so often in the next few weeks.
The Scapegoat has been a first time read and I'm still reeling from a book that is uniquely skilled in its subtleties. Here are Daphne's thoughts on it in a letter to Oriel Malet,
'I know that it has been written from a sort of spiritual awareness, which is not emotional...Actually in The Scapegoat, I've tried to say too many things at once. How close hunger is to greed, how difficult to tell the difference, how hard not to be confused, how close one's better nature to one's worst, and finally, how the self must be stripped of everything, and give up everything, before it can understand love. But one can't tell that to the ordinary reader. He that has ears to hear let him hear.'
John, holidaying in France from his rather predictable and bland academic life in London finds himself confronted by his doppelganger Jean de Gue. Duped into replacing his French look-alike in his messy and complex life, John walks into a home he doesn't know filled with a family he has never met before, a glass-making business about which he is ignorant, secrets and allegiances of which he is unaware and only the dog notices the difference.
If fiction is an array of possibilities then The Scapegoat is one of those novels where the possibilities feel limitless. Daphne structures this complex physical and psychological world intricately and flawlessly and I was constantly measuring up all the options at her disposal. John becomes the master of the well-thought out open-ended question as he relies on those around him to supply the background to every single detail of his life as he attempts to negotiate the hazards of an unaccustomed routine.
Constantly he questions his very existence, who he is and what he is,
'...a clown's covering, a ludicrous mask of paint and powder, already melting, falling away in strips, showing me to myself unchanged, the useless nonentity I had always been.'
Suddenly invested with power and control and dealing with a past to which he did not belong but which infiltrates every moment of the present, John realises he can make or break the lives around him in an instant.
Daphne scatters the novel liberally with all her Jungian ideas about the two selves and then creates a fusion of the two to make a third. I can't make any pretence of an informed Jungian analysis but, if that is of particular interest to anyone out there, here's a book that will bear fruitful and insightful material.The dangers and pitfalls of the split personality, allowing one half to dominate to the exclusion of the other and the necessary balance of the two must have been a particular peril to a writer like Daphne who immersed herself so completely in the lives of her characters as she wrote.
Daphne's ability to define sense of place not just confined to Cornwall, here she does France perfectly and several people including her daughter Tessa Montgomery cited this book as a favourite and to my mind perhaps this one a neglected gem in Daphne's oeuvre. The book is brilliantly written and easily stands the test of time as I am finding does most of Daphne's writing. She ploughed such a unique and indefinable furrow that no one has really been able to analyse it or pigeonhole her books into any particular literary age. They seem to stand up to the most rigorous scrutiny no matter which lens you peer through.
Now who to tag for next Friday?
Who to tag?
Ip dip sky blue ....Juxtabook, it's you!