The Flight of the Falcon – Daphne Du Maurier

Armino Fabbio leads a pleasant, if humdrum life — until he becomes circumstantially involved in the murder of an old peasant woman in Rome. The woman, he gradually comes to realise, was his family’s beloved servant many years ago, in his native town of Ruffano.

Over five hundred years before, the sinister Duke Claudio, known as The Falcon, lived his twisted, brutal life, preying on the people of Ruffano. Now it is the twentieth century, and the town seems to have forgotten its violent history. But have things really changed?

This is the first novel I’ve read by Daphne Du Maurier, which, considering they have been sat on my mum’s bookshelf for ages is some feat.  The Flight of the Falcon was a good choice for a starting point, whilst not an amazing literary work, and with a few too many coincidences for my liking (although not half as many as a Charles Dickens novel), it kept me interested to the end.

Part crime novel – although this is somewhat played down as the plot progresses – and part suspenseful thriller, Armino’s adventures are very arts focused.  As revelations are uncovered, rivalries seem to echo through history and reverberate around the town of Ruffano. It becomes clear the town is a stage for an encounter more intricate amd terrifying than Armino could have imagined.

The reader is treated to a story that oozes atmosphere, there is murder, secrets, obsession, a dark history, religious and mythical imagery and fervour, all of which is played out to a background tension that constantly ratchets up. Pleasingly and predictably all these plot points are woven around plenty of alcohol and food consumption.

Whilst engaging with all of the above, Du Maurier also explores the complex culture of Italy’s people, so often divided by class, education, politics, war (here focusing on World War II, still fresh in the mind of many in 1965, when this was published), and the most jarring and obvious, generation. This alone is worth reading the book for.

The key word of the title is ‘flight’, which is used in an array of different contexts throughout the story, and also the – connected – nature of forgetting plays a large thematic part. The layering and precise weaving of all the ideas presented is impressive and will most certainly reward further readings.

The descriptions of Ruffano in particular are gorgeously drawn, both opulent and theatrical but also restrained by the mundane.  Du Maurier crafts dual natures throughout the novel, not least of which come from the heightened and simmering tensions of academic rivalries. which serve as the boiling point which builds up to the grandiose climax.

Although this is a book that doesn’t rush itself, and didn’t compel me to carry on, it had enough of a dramatic aura that I was interested to see how things concluded.  And perhaps all those coincidences really do come down to predestination in the end.

21 Replies to “The Flight of the Falcon – Daphne Du Maurier”

  1. I remember a novel by this author that I read when I was in middle school. The title was a woman’s name, I think. I was way over my head, lol.

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    1. Rebecca would be the obvious choice there,although one I have yet to read. It seems to be the book everyone goes on about so being a bit contrary I avoided it.

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      1. Yes! Rebecca ! ! I thought it was a thriller novel. lol . I was then obsessing on Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes in middle school. Oh, and Harry Potter.

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        1. I still go back to Christie, and the Holmes stories from time to time. Rebecca is on my TBR list. I will try and get through a few more Du Maurier’s before we go back to Ph, whenever thay may be.

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  2. Having been sat on my bookshelf for some time, I read this book a few years ago. It is certainly a different read from Rebecca, Jamaica Inn and My Cousin Rachel but is an amazing read nonetheless. A bit gloomy in parts but I stuck with it too the end.

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    1. I’ll be raiding your shelves for more soon, a few have caught my eye. I like the dark nature of the novel, intrigued that it is different to some of her other novels too.

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  3. I’ve never read any of her work, and was surprised to find (upon visiting Wikipedia) that she died in 1989. I thought she belonged to a different era. My mistake. Perhaps I’ll have to give one of hers a go.

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    1. Daffers as her friend probably never called her does seem like someone who wrote a long time back, that’s always the vibe I got from her as well. I’ve been scouring the blurbs and have a good handful that I am looking forward to reading.

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  4. Dear Ste J, If i can recommend Daphne du Maurier to you after you’ve already discovered her for yourself, then I’d encourage you to go ahead and overcome your reluctance with “Rebecca.” It’s very good, and has one of the best villainesses (if one doesn’t just simply say “villains” now) of all time. And then, I have to tell you that du Maurier’s tricks with food and drink must be throughout her novels. I read one of her novels, a wonderful romance called “Frenchman’s Creek,” and never recovered from her tricks with a roasted chicken. What do I mean by that? Well, if you recall Proust’s madeleine, and how it brought up memories for him every time he tasted one, in an extremely evocative fashion, it’s something like that, except that it sort of goes fast forward instead. I mean, the way the two lovers (spoiler alert) roasted a chicken outside in the night and consumed it is in my mind every time I smell chicken cooking, and when I eat it, particularly a rotisserie chicken from the store which is of course professionally prepared and juicier than a home chicken, well, I start to feel romantic. I think sweet thoughts about people I haven’t seen for years, and remember old boyfriends, and stuff like that. Good thing I’m too old to get into any mischief! And keep in mind the old black-and-white movie “Rebecca”–it’s a classic, and i’m sure must be miles better than the recent remake which I saw a clip of recently. Some things simply cannot be redone. And that’s all from me this time. I seem to keep writing very long remarks to you lately!

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    1. Long remarks are good, I just had a terrible headache so am trying to take it a little bit easier and avod the screen a bit but I can’t keep away from these omments. Rebecca is such a popular go to book that seeing other books that were probably less well known, I chose to go there to make it more interesting for others. I am looking forward to reading Rebecca though. I find it’s the same with Irene Nemirovsky, I’ve read most of her work but not Suite Francaise, the one they made into a film and everyone says is her best work. Weirdly I own a copy on both continents, a paperback and hardback. One day I will get around to reading it as I love her work, then I can moan about modern films and how they, on the whole, rubbish.

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  5. Thanks for the review. I have been curious about the author. Perhaps other of her books will be more interesting/exciting?

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  6. Ah, Daphne Du Maurier! One of my favorite authors. It was not Rebecca but My Cousin Rachel, that introduced me to Du Maurier. Jamaica Inn was the next. And I loved them all.

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