Thursday, 26 June 2008


My 'Backwards With Daphne' project hasn't been roaring along, has it? I told you all about my great intentions back in this post, in early April, and only now have I finished the first one - The Flight of the Falcon. It's not Daphne du Maurier's last novel, but it's the last one which came in my boxset - and the plan was to start at the end and work backwards, as it were.

The Flight of the Falcon is set in Italy, a long way from Cornwall and the only du Mauriers I'd previously encountered - our hero is Armino Fabbio, a tour guide who accidentally becomes involved in the murder of an old peasant woman in Rome. He leaves his tour group, and travels back to his home town Ruffiano, which he hasn't visited in two decades. In the same city, five hundred years previously, cruel Duke Claudio - known as The Falcon - had terrorised the people of Ruffiano with his meglomania and brutality. Has anything really changed in Ruffiano, or are events mysteriously repeating themselves?

That - like the synopsis of Rebecca, I suppose - sounds rather more melodramatic than Daphne du Maurier's writing allows it to be. Having said that, Backwards With Daphne almost drew to a halt, as The Flight of the Falcon didn't work for me at all. I could appreciate why she was writing it - an interesting idea, with a host of familial issues to untangle at the centre - but I didn't much care what went on. Do students of different departments really hate each other that much? I'd be bored stiff studying a Science subject, not to mention completely incapable, but I didn't want to burn any of the students at stake...

My other main problem, I'm afraid, was names. I can't remember names at the best of times, and when they all end in '-io', I had no chance. Daphne du Maurier couldn't do much else, in Italy, but I spent much of my time hopelessly baffled.

I think I'm painting a worse picture than it was - The Flight of the Falcon isn't a bad book, at all, but when you know the same pen had already produced Rebecca (oops, supposed to be reading backwards, this should be a blank canvas for me... sorry) - just goes to show the flaws in this intriguing reading project. If this were my first Daphne du Maurier novel, I probably wouldn't bother with any others... BUT, I had the fun experience of reading the same book as a library colleague sat opposite me at teabreak, and we could chat about it.

Anyone else read it? Any thoughts? Our Vicar's Wife? Karen, my co-Daphne reader, have you got this far yet?


  1. I finished reading The Flight of the Falcon a few days ago. When I started it I wrote a bit about it in the Sunday Salon see here.

    I got the names of the Dukes Claudio and Carlo mixed up and I thought the book was too long. It started off well but then dragged and the mystery surrounding the old woman etc wasn't mysterious. It's been years since I read any of Du Maurier's books. I loved Rebecca when I first read it. On the whole I thought The Flight of the Falcon was OK, but no magic there as in Rebecca. I hope when I re-read Rebecca it will still have the same magic for me.

  2. I'm all here and there with my Daphne reading ... but I tell you one thing for certain. I was shocked when reading her Branwell biography. How on earth, I thought, can the person that put so much mystery into 'Rebecca' fail so utterly and completely to intruige the reader over the mystery surrounding Branwell? Whatever Justine says about it, I think it's the dullest thing she's written, and yet her other biographies (of family, I grant you,) are sparkling witty things.

    Still, we both need to read 'My cousin Rachel' for august (I found a good book group, then discovered it was your bookgroup, hope you don't mind!) and that, I'm sure, will knock your socks off ....

  3. I'm ashamed to say Daphne has been languishing of late - not forgotten or abandoned, just waiting until other things are out of the way. It's time to make up a properly prioritised TBR list/pile!

  4. Having recently read Daphne's 'life' (sorry Simon, I know authors' lives should not taint our appreciation of their writing.... but I still maintain that we cannot separate them altogether) I know a little bit about the state of her mind when she wrote the book. I can't say I appreciated her life and her preoccupations, and likewise found the book hard work. I admit it is many years since I read it, but the fact that I have never felt a desire to re-read it speaks for itself!


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