As well as suffering from an entirely understandable obsession with everything Charles Dickens at the moment, I am also the unwitting victim, since reading Rebecca a few months back, of a Daphne du Maurier related buying/borrowing frenzy. I just cannot get enough of her. Every book seems to catch me out with something entirely new and unexpected and I am currently begging, borrowing and stealing every book of hers that I am lucky enough to stumble across.
I find that the best charity shops are usually found in the most unlikely places. There is a pretty musty, fairly scruffy little place on a certain ‘frontier’ town on the outskirts of Derby that provides the Relish family with countless gems. There is most definitively a bibliophile with amazing taste frequenting that little shop whose high TBR turnover is currently filling our own little library corner to bursting!
All of this gushing about charity shops aside, I snapped up a practically brand new copy of Du Maurier’s The Scapegoat whilst staying with family over Christmas and I just can’t stress how much I loved this brilliant book; the story completely surprised and bowled me over and you must all go out and buy it right now! But…what is it about? **Warning** I’m going to be very sparing on the details here..
‘John’ is a pretty dull English university lecturer, travelling back home to England through the village of Le Mans following a brief sojourn in France; a country that is very close to his heart. Thoughts of returning to work and his solitary, bachelor lifestyle is beginning to take its toll on our professor and his loneliness is driving him to pay a visit to the local abbey when he bumps into Comte Jean de Gué in the local watering hole; a man with an extremely dramatic life and some very messy relationships indeed.
This is sadly where my narration ends because I couldn’t bare to spoil this book for anyone and think I would if I were to reveal any more. There are some formidable and typically ‘Du Maurier’ characters and atmospheric locations to be grappled with here and the prevailing feeling of displacement and tension kept me completely hooked to the very end. The premise of this story is just brilliant; terrifying, creepy, you name it. Du Maurier was apparently going through a particularly intense time in her own life at the time and the novel was written in a quite frenzied six months; a manner of birth that, although I’m sure was not pleasant for the author, merely lends weight and magic to this dark tale.
The plot may stumble into the realms of predictability for some people at times, but my only genuine criticism of this book is that the story only spans a period of a week and that I couldn’t go on enjoying her writing for ever. There’s a lot of room for introspection in John’s tale; a deep exploration of desire, morality and identity that I just couldn’t get enough of. What ever will happen to me when I run out of her books to read?