Wow! It’s the only word I can find that sums up The Flight of the Falcon by Daphne Du Maurier. Wow!
A little background information: Daphne Du Maurier’s literary career spanned decades, from 1931-1980. She wrote many novels, lots of short stories, and even some non fiction. Her most famous works are Rebecca and short story The Birds. Yes, both were inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock movies. As far as I can tell, those works also sum up her writing style: suspenseful and creepy.
Halfway through The Flight of the Falcon I considered not finishing it. Like many of the books published in the 1960s that I’ve read, it has a decidedly disturbing tone. Dark terrorizing descriptions are the complex background for the twisting action. I’m not really a huge fan of paranormal, weird, or disturbing stories so I almost didn’t finish. I’m glad I did.
The plot centers around Armino Fabbio, a tourist courier for Sunshine Tours in Italy, who is all alone in the world. One night, after being propositioned by a male tourist with a 10,000 lire note, he discovers an old drunk woman on the steps of an old church. He gives her the money (while avoiding the lusty man) and something about her awakens a repressed recognition in him.
The old woman is found murdered the next morning, and Armino is sure he knew her identity. He leaves the tour and heads to the city of his birth, Ruffano, which he left at the age of 11 with his mother and her German lover towards the end of WWII. The drama ensues.
I don’t want to give away the rest of the plot. It would ruin the book for anyone reading this. Just let me say that I was positive that I knew how it would end. I was positive about the identity of the murderer. I was shocked, yes shocked, by the ending. I was wrong about many things. The ending was perfect.
Several themes are explored throughout the book. One of these themes is the duality of personality, with the good inside a person dueling with the evil. It even extends to a dual nature of Christ, which I don’t agree with at all, and by extend anyone who sets himself up as a savior. I’m not sure that Du Maurier intended to imply that Christ indeed has a dual nature or if it was the imagination of the young Aldo (older brother of Armino) that deeply impressed and confused the young Armino. Either way, there is a lot of good versus evil with plenty of gray areas to lose yourself.
The issue of self and identity is also explored through the characters. Armino struggles to define himself throughout his whole life. Some of the characters end up losing their self constructed identity and are at a loss afterwards. It’s an intriguing question really. Would I be the same person with the same self-possession if my pride and vanity were stripped away from me?
Daphne Du Maurier is a talented author. While this kind of fiction is not my forte, I will probably read other books by her, scattered throughout plenty of happier less frightening books. Whew!
Since it was published in 1965, it is relatively clean in regards to language, although there is some. Sexuality is addressed here and there in passing, but Du Maurier keeps the action behind doors.