Tuesday, November 23, 2010
The Flight of the Falcon by Daphne du Maurier
The Flight of the Falcon like several of her other novels, is told in the first person from a male perspective. The narrator of the story is Armino Fabbio, an Italian tour guide. The tale starts out with Armino conducting a tour bus of American and English tourists through Rome. Here one evening he notices an old vagrant lady slumped in the doorway of a church. He approaches the old lady to give her some money and is struck my her strong resemblence to his childhood nanny. The next day he learns that the old lady has been murdered and he decides to return to his childhood home Ruffano (a ficticious Italian town) as he has a vague sense that he wants to determine if this woman had been Marta, his nanny, and what might have lead to her being in such a situation in Rome.
Armino, who is now 32, returns to his hometown after an absence of 25 years. As the story unfolds we learn of the history of his family, who were tragically torn apart during the second world war. Armino, who always believed his elder brother, a fighter pilot during the war, had been shot down and killed, learns on his return that his brother is very much alive and changed. The Flight of the Falcon is really the story of the brothers' relationship.
The novel is perhaps not as instantly alluring as some of the other Du Maurier novels. It took me a while to become immersed in it. But it had me well and truly hooked by half way through. There is a wonderful sense of place in the novel, and the Italian town and landscape come alive in Du Maurier's narrative. Ruffano is a university town in the 1960s complete with students, vespas, hilly streets and piazzas. There is a strong tension in the novel, and to avoid spoilers I will not reveal too much about that, except to say that there is a rising sense of doom in the story. Followers of Du Maurier will know that her novels rarely end happily and this one is no exception. Having said that the ending is satisfying and very moving.
It is many, many years since I have read a novel by Daphne Du Maurier, having read so many when I was a teenager. Because of this I approached the Flight of the Falcon with some trepidation because I wondered if this sort of novel would still captivate and enchant me. And while The Flight of Falcon is by no means my favourite Du Maurier novel, it has many of the wonderful and unusual elements I associate with her style and I thoroughly enjoyed it.