The Flight of the Falcon by Daphne du Maurier

Having read most of Daphne du Maurier’s more popular books I’m now slowly working through her lesser known novels (though I’m saving Frenchman’s Creek for last as I’m expecting to love that one and want to have something to look forward to). Published in the 1960s, The Flight of the Falcon was one of her final novels and although I didn’t think it was one of her best, I did still enjoy it. If you’re new to du Maurier I would recommend reading some of her other books first, but this one is definitely worth reading too.

Our narrator, Armino Fabbio, works for Sunshine Tours and at the beginning of the book he is showing a group of British and American tourists the sights of Rome. By chance he becomes indirectly involved in the murder of an elderly peasant woman, who he believes he recognises as his childhood nurse, Marta. Deciding to visit Ruffano, the town of his birth, in an attempt to find out what had happened to Marta, Armino begins to uncover some shocking family secrets.

After Armino’s arrival in Ruffano (which is based on the real Italian city of Urbino), the story begins to revolve around the city’s university and the rivalry between the Arts students and the Commerce & Economics students. The battle between these two groups reaches its climax during the preparations for a festival re-enacting the final moments of the city’s fifteenth-century ruler, the evil Duke Claudio – also known as The Falcon.

As I think I’ve said every time I’ve written about a du Maurier book, one of the things I love most about her writing is the atmosphere she creates. In The Flight of the Falcon she succeeds in making Ruffano, with its medieval streets, historic churches and ducal palace, seem beautiful and picturesque but claustrophobic and forbidding at the same time. Whether she’s writing about Cornwall, Italy, France or any other part of the world, her settings always feel vivid and real.

Not everything about this book worked for me, though. I found I didn’t really care about the university politics and rival student groups, which formed such a big part of the plot. I was much more interested in Armino’s personal story. Armino himself is not the strongest of characters, but I was fascinated by his relationship with his elder brother, Aldo. And I hadn’t realised how many of du Maurier’s novels have male narrators! My Cousin Rachel, The Scapegoat, The House on the Strand, I’ll Never Be Young Again and now this one. Are there any others?

In October, Simon from Savidge Reads and Polly of Novel Insights are hosting a ‘Discovering Daphne’ season, so if you still haven’t read any of Daphne’s books that could be a good time to start.

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8 thoughts on “The Flight of the Falcon by Daphne du Maurier

  1. Crissy says:

    Thanks so much for your reviews. I’ve just stumbled across them and think they’re fantastic. I love reading and everything literature and have somehow missed out on many of the classics over the years and, like you, think it’s time to discover them.
    I recently read ‘Rebecca’ by du Maurier and loved it. I want to read more of her novels, but don’t know where to start. I’m worried I’m going to be disappointed! I was thinking about ‘My Cousin Rachel’ or ‘Frenchman’s Creek’, but was wondering, having read and loved ‘Rebecca’ where to go from there? Which du Maurier novel is your favourite?
    Apologies for the long comment, and thanks so much for writing these reviews!

    • Helen says:

      Thanks for commenting, Crissy. It’s never too late to discover the classics! I’m glad you loved Rebecca as it’s one of my favourite books. None of her other novels are quite as good as Rebecca, in my opinion, but I would highly recommend My Cousin Rachel, The Scapegoat and The House on the Strand.

  2. Veens says:

    I started reading Rebecca, but the silliest thing happened – I did not like the print ( it was a old book) and abandoned it 😦

    I feel very ashamed to have not read it 😦

    But I am going to try get myself a better one 🙂

    • Helen says:

      I can understand not being able to finish a book because of the print. Sometimes it can really spoil your enjoyment of a book. I’m sure you would like Rebecca though, if you can find a better version of it.

  3. Anbolyn says:

    One thing I like about du Maurier is that her plots and settings are so varied. The university politics aspect sounds intriguing to me and very appropriate for the era it was published in. I want to read more of her books so thanks for the reminder about the Discovering Daphne event – I think I will join in! Now I just have to decide what to read…

  4. Jessica says:

    Thats really bazare as Im also saving Frenchmans Creek til last LOL I found out of her lesser known novels this is one of the strongest (weakest so far being Mary Anne IMO) I found the two brothers quite fasinating.

    • Helen says:

      I hope we’re not disappointed by Frenchman’s Creek, then! I haven’t read Mary Anne yet, so I’m sorry to hear it’s one of the weakest.

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