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?