The Flight of the Falcon

by Daphne du Maurier

Hardcover, 1965

Collection

Description

It is 500 years since Duke Claudio the Falcon lived his brutal life in Ruffano, Italy. Now, the modern-day town has forgotten its violent history. Its university has a shiny new Commerce and Economics building - but have things really changed?

Rating

(89 ratings; 3.5)

User reviews

LibraryThing member reading_fox
Not very interesting. The original premise is quite good, but badly let down by a very poor ending and some quite unbelivable plotting.

Armino Donati is a tourist courier in Italy runnng coach tours around the highlights of Naples and Rome. A chance meeting with a homeless women sparks memories of home. Abandoning his clients he returns to the town of Ruffano, that he hasn't seen for twenty years since his mother left with the retreating German commendant. Memories lie heavy upon him as he explores the streets that he used toplay in with his brother now lost to Allied firepower. He takes a temporary job as a librarian to subsist for a while and becomes embroiled in the student politics of the era.

This is written somewher in the 60s - the heights of student activism - and the traditional liberal Arts students are feeling strong competition from the newly founded richer and more numerous Commerce and Economics students. The Rector of the university is ill and the newly appointed Arts director is in nominal charge of this year's grand Festival, where the students enact a great Pagent of history. Armino sees a face he had thought never to see againand torn between old and new loyalities he struggles to come to terms with the past as he his engulfed in the current turmoil.

It al flows along quite reasonably, the reminiscences are short and evoke past scenes well. The supporting characters are all a bit thin, especially Carla Rasspa who seems to exist only to inject some undescribed sexual tension into the plot, but Armino has a good range of doubts and uncertainties. The tensions and drama of student life is well described, especially the vivid concerns over trivial details but ultimately the preoccupation with the past interferes.

The ending however is just falt, after such a dramatic build up the conclusions is easily guessed from a long way back, and the action falls flat. It's best to stop at the end of chapter 21 and imagine what you think will happen. It is bound to be more belivable and more exciting that what is actually written.

There is much worse out there, but also an huge amount of better writing.
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LibraryThing member smik
I read a lot of Daphne du Maurier novels in my earlier years but nothing for some time. In fact I appear to have had a du Maurier binge in 1975, and even read THE FLIGHT OF THE FALCON back then, but remember nothing of the plot. I do remember how much I enjoyed her novels though.

The Amazon reviews of the novel are certainly a mixed lot. For me the novel has a sort of Gothic quality. Armino Fabbio discovers that his brother whom he was told was dead, shot down in flames in 1943, is not only alive, but just as manipulative as "Beo" remembers him to be. It is as if he has taken on the persona of "the Falcon", the sinister duke Claudio.

The action of the novel climaxes with the Ruffano festival, a one day event choreographed for the last three years by Aldo in his role as the Arts Director of the Ruffano Ducal Palace. This year he wants to involve all the town's university students in a re-enactment of the event which led to the death of Duke Claudio five hundred years earlier. Aldo offers Armino a part in the celebrations but he becomes concerned that it might result in bloodshed with student faculties attacking each other.

Meanwhile the investigation continues into the death in Rome of an old peasant woman. Armino realizes that he knows who she was and feels in some way responsible for her death. She was in fact the nanny of both Armino, and, before him, Aldo. There is a mystery attached to how she had come into their family.

I did enjoy reading this novel which I have included in my list for the Silver Vintage Reading Challenge. - a book by an author I've read before. I think it has survived fifty years very well.
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LibraryThing member Bookmarque
Well, I don't know about hypnotic suspense as it's described. The whole thing moves a bit too slowly and is too introspective in nature to be truly suspenseful. Plus it isn't difficult to guess how things are going to end up. Aldo's casual cruelty was too alien and somehow wishful, and Armino's willing passivity and phobia about lust, passion and sex meant it couldn't end any other way. The tension between them is well-drawn as are Armino's memories of them as children. Such a strange, enigmatic and closeted existence, completely torn apart by World War II.

The present time in the book is the 1960s and the attitude toward the war and those who fought it has changed. No more romance, no more drama. The younger generation is on the make, out to leave their own mark and don't want to be beholden to their parents. Armino is caught between; not young, but not part of his parents' generation either. He drifts through life with a job that is perfect to keep him in cigarette money, but apart from anything permanent. No entanglements for Armino. He seems to be equally afraid of his own potential (being his mother's son) as he is of women. The one woman he's close to in the novel, Carla Rasspa, seems to be written just to emphasize these fears, as if we didn't fully grasp them from Armino's own internal monologues.

Still, I was pretty interested the whole time I read it. The tone is strange, maybe a product of its time when people really did speak in a stilted, oblique fashion and got away with it. Everyone seems to get instantly and deeply involved with everyone else immediately upon meeting. Especially the students; they concern themselves so fully in Armino's life that I felt stifled by them myself.

And it's the clash of the students that is at the heart of the orchestrated violence that is Ruffano's grand festival. This year orchestrated by none other than Aldo himself and he's worked himself and the students into a frenzy; playing one side against the other in a way that is revealed slowly and wickedly. When we first meet him, we hope he can be the saving of Armino and give him back the family and belonging he so clearly needs. Then through direct and indirect actions, we see his is not the man he pretends to be.

This isn't du Maurier's best work, but it is a strong character study and full of understated tension. The links between the family's history and the forthcoming events are obvious and a bit heavy handed, but the writing is excellent as usual. Ruffano comes alive and its as if we've lived their all our lives. Small town secrets never really change.
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LibraryThing member .Monkey.
My first du Maurier, and I am sold.

"We were right on time. Sunshine Tours informed its passengers on the printed itinerary that their coach was due at the Hotel Splendido, Rome, at approximately 1800 hours. Glancing at my watch, I saw that it wanted three minutes to the hour.
'You owe me five hundred lire,' I said to Beppo.
The driver grinned. 'We'll see about that in Naples,' he said. 'In Naples I shall present you with a bill for more than two thousand lire.'"


It's fairly rare that books really intrigue me from the very first line. I don't mind, I can spare a little time to get warmed up to the story as long as the writing is decent. But instant hook? Excellent! I was immediately curious. Who are these guys, why are they betting on this tour, who will wind up winning later!, and, what's going to happen on the way?! It's a pretty simple opening, but it drops you right into the middle of things, things that aren't huge, it's nothing major going on, apparently a little bet between someone and a tour bus driver. Yet it's somehow quite intriguing! It just works. At least it did for me.

The reviews here are all over the place, a couple love it, a couple think it's drab junk, others think her writing is enough to keep interest but it's not her greatest. Hmm!
All I can say is, I really loved this book. In my opinion, it was great writing, a compelling plot, interesting characters, gripping intrigue, a mild hint of romance, a bit of mystery... The Manchester Evening News blurbed it "Du Maurier at her best," and I have no other du Maurier to compare it to, yet, so I can't say whether they (or the reviews here) are correct. But I barely put it down once I started, and I am excited to read more of du Maurier in the future.… (more)
LibraryThing member patrickgarson
The Flight of The Falcon is definitely not one of Du Maurier's strongest novels. Ever walking the line between a kind of neo-gothic and slipping into parody, Du Maurier stumbles a little in this one. That being said, her regular strengths are on display as usual and the book finishes with a bang.

An act of charity towards a beggar one night sets Armino Fabbio on a path that will take him to his childhood town of Ruffano, and into the darkest parts of both his, and Ruffano's, past.

Du maurier's regular preoccupations fill The Flight of The Falcon: guilt, passions, and svengali-like figures. The breath of the past clouding our present vision and a sense of terrible destiny. And let's face it, they're great preoccupations! And Du Maurier handles them so well.

Unfortunately some of her regular flaws manifest themselves as well, exacerbated by her contemporary setting of a university in the sixties. On every subject bar his family, Armino is a somewhat cold and alienated character. He seems sexless if not outright repulsed by sensuality; almost prudish and judgmental.

The roiling passions Du Maurier stokes so well in the individual are undeniably a little silly when brought to bear on whole populations. The idea of an extremely violent feud between Commerce students and Arts students is almost comically improbable, even in the sixties - and I say this as a Commerce-turned-Arts student myself! Her irrationality works grandly on individual people but expanding it to a collective madness is a bridge too far.

Likewise her plot takes a little too long to get off the ground, and once it does the pace renders it more predictable than it should be. There are a few swerves along the way, but the destination is ultimately predictable from very early on.

And yet, the Du Maurier's talent is enough to keep you reading until the end - at which point you can safely read Amanda Craig's insightful foreword without having 3/4s of the novel ruined (god I hate that; make it an afterword for god's sake!). The Flight of The Falcon is one for Du Maurier fans only; she's produced much stronger work.
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LibraryThing member Kasthu
The Flight of the Falcon is one of Daphne du Maurier’s later suspense novels. Published just after The Glass-Blowers (1963) and before The House on the Strand (1969), The Flight of the Falcon is set in Rome and the town of Ruffano, Italy. Armino Fabbio is a tour guide, or courier, shepherding tourists from England and America (the Beef and Barbarians) throughout the Italian countryside.

One evening, he gives 10,000 lire to an old beggar woman in the street, who he later finds out was a) murdered and b) was his old childhood nurse. Deciding to investigate, Armino goes to his childhood hometown, Ruffano, where the town’s university has blossomed. Taking a job as a library assistant, Armino uncovers a secret relating to his own past. All of this is linked to an event, or mystery, that happened in Ruffano over 400 years previously.

I’ll say it over and over; Daphne du Maurier really understood how to create an atmospheric, suspenseful novel. One of the things I love about this book is that you can feel the tension between Armino and Aldo, although Armino doesn’t explicitly say so. This isn’t du Maurier’s strongest novel; there are some predictable elements to the plot. I also didn’t care much for the narrator, who seems to allow things to happen to him rather than being an integral part of the plot. Aldo was a much more interesting, compelling character. It was also highly unlikely to me that, as an apparent stranger to Ruffano, Armino would get so involved in the lives of the town’s inhabitants and students so quickly. But du Maurier’s talent for writing fast-paced, descriptive prose is unequaled. If you’re new to du Maurier’s writing, though, I’d start with another one of her novels first.
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LibraryThing member nordie
finally got around to reading it, but after a slow start (I started again), this turned out to be a rather good story of a young man returning to his home town after 20 years away, to find his long lost brother has organised a celebration for Easter Week, that will have fatal consequences for those around him
LibraryThing member haymaai
Having enjoyed reading ‘Rebecca’ and ‘The King’s General,’ I had hoped that ‘Flight of the Falcon’ by Daphne DuMaurier would capture me with its intrigue and romance as well. Unfortunately, I found myself to be rather detached while reading the novel, and I felt little connection to the main characters. The story is about an Italian courier or tour guide, Armino Fabio, who returns to his hometown of Ruffano, a fictional Italian city, in which he is reunited with his brother Aldo Donati. Donati is orchestrating a performance for a festival, which depicts the historical, sinister actions of Claudio Malebranche, also called the ‘Falcon,’ five hundred years before. The reader is engaged with the plot when a mysterious, decrepit old woman is murdered on the streets of Rome at night. Fabio is sought for questioning by police regarding this old woman’s death, and after twenty years, he returns home in pursuit of the identity of this woman, and comes face to face with his brother. The story is rather dark with secret societies and ominous deeds rendered by the ‘Falcon,’ but I think that because the character development of Armino and Aldo were limited, I was virtually just a visitor to the actions that occurred. By the time the story comes to its final scene, in which Armino and Aldo climb the high tower overlooking the city to alight on its narrow ledge, I was detached to the final unfolding of the story. Given all this, I still find DuMaurier an amazing writer, and even her worst novels might be compared to the best of other contemporary authors.… (more)
LibraryThing member LDVoorberg
A strange story, not unpredictable. With a character like Aldo, it can only end one way. I caught the clue about Marta so I anticipated that "shocker" too.
What is more interesting is the way Beo idolizes Aldo after 20 years, how they fall back into the same relationship so quickly.
The town is as much a character in this story as any, perhaps even more than the palace. Good if you like old Italy, perhaps.… (more)
LibraryThing member Helenliz
This was, I felt, a bit patchy. Tells a story over 10 days set in Rome & Ruffano, a small city set about a ducal palace. This is Armino's hometown, from which he left, age 11, when his mother left with the Germans. And Armino's been running away from the place and his past ever since. He returns when he discovers a woman on the steps of a Rome church who reminds him of his nurse. When he then discovers that she was murdered it sets in play a chain of events that have many surprising consequences.

There were several points where the plot twist surprised me and a couple where I kind of got it coming, but it certainly had a winding narrative. I felt that the tone of the book was a bit confused. At one moment it would be rational, at another entirely irrational and there seemed to be little to trigger a switch between the two. He ends up in a very difficult situation, entirely out of his control, no matter how hard he might try. The ending is somehow inevitable although not quite what I expected.
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LibraryThing member gypsysmom
Armino Fabbio is a courier for a tour company. While escorting a group of British and Americans (beef and barbarians as they are called in the touring business) from Florence to Naples, he gives a 10,000 lire note to a peasant woman on the steps of a church. The next day he discovers that the woman was murdered and she had no money on her. Convinced that he caused her death by giving her the large sum, he attends at the police station with two of his tour group who want to tell the police about seeing her the night before. When he views the body he believes her to be the woman who was his nurse as a young boy. He decides to return to the city in which he was raised to investigate.

Armino left Ruffano at age 11 during the second world war. His older brother, Aldo, was killed when his plane was shot down and his father died in a prison camp. His mother took up with a German general and went to Frankfurt with him (taking Armino away from his home). Armino has never been back to Ruffano. His mother died of cancer a few years previous to the book. She had remarried and Armino took his stepfather's last name. Thus, when he returns to Ruffano, no-one connects him with the Donati family.

Armino finds a temporary job in the University library and looks into his old nurse's murder. He goes to his old house which he discovers is now owned by the Rector of the University. While waiting outside of it he sees what he believes must be a ghost for a male visitor to the house looks exactly like his brother Aldo.

Soon he discovers that his brother is indeed alive and the city's Art Director now. In this capacity he is responsible for the upcoming festival which will reenact a scene from the city's history.

Armino is overjoyed to find Aldo is alive but as the brothers rediscover each other, Armino wonders is Aldo is quite sane. Aldo has a band of followers who seem prepared to do anything for him. The festival re-enactment will pit two student factions against each other. And it becomes obvious that Aldo is involved with the Rector's wife. Is the evil Duke Claudio reincarnated as Aldo? And will the violent end to the Duke's reign be repeated during the festival? And who killed the old nurse?

Read the book for the answers. While the style of writing is somewhat dated and uses more British slang than a book involving only Italians should, the story is quite interesting. I was surprised by the ending although some of the smaller denouements were easier to guess. I was also surprised that the book was so sexual. It's not that there were any explicit sex scenes but the allusions to illicit sex were pervasive. For a book that was serialized in Good Housekeeping magazine in 1965 it seemed quite risque.
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LibraryThing member KatieCarella
While there were some interesting family dynamics, this book was really boring and rather predictable.

Publication

Doubleday & Company (1965), Edition: 1st, 304 pages

Original publication date

1965

Pages

253

Language

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