‘The Flight of the Falcon’ by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 stars

Daphne du Maurier employed a variety of writing tones in The Flight of the Falcon, showing how versatile she could be. If the first chapters are characterised by a funny undertone, in the rest of the book the first-person narration assumes a much more introspective, mysterious and tense quality. As past and present start to mingle, the story becomes puzzling and even confusing at times. In order to keep a secret alive, one of the characters is not as explored as his backstory and mental state asked for.

Armino, the narrator of the novel, is a tour guide in Italy. He works for Sunshine Tours, a company that organises visits around the country. At the beginning of the book, he is with a group of English and American tourists in Rome. While at the hotel, one of the tourists invites him to his room. Although the narrator clearly refuses the offer, the man still slips a 10 thousand lire note into his hand trying to convince him. Armino decides to give the money to a woman they saw sleeping at the door of a church early on. When she holds his hand, he has a strange feeling and runs away.

The following day, a piece in the newspaper says that the same woman was killed and nothing was found in her possession besides a few coins. The moment he sees her body, Armino realises that the woman is Marta, who worked for his family when he was a child. That realisation makes him want to return to Ruffano, his hometown, a place he left with his mother when he was just eleven years old. Both his father, who was the superintendent of the town’s palace, and his brother Aldo died during the German occupation. Continue reading

Favourite Books by Daphne du Maurier

The time has finally come to enjoy another Daphne du Maurier Reading Week, hosted by Ali. As I still haven’t managed to start reading my choice for this year, The Flight of the Falcon, nothing better than to share with you my favourite books by Daphne du Maurier. So far, I’ve read a total of nine books, including seven novels and two short story collections. They are: Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, The King’s General, Jamaica Inn, The House on the Strand, The Birds and Other Stories, The Scapegoat, Frenchman’s Creek and Don’t Look Now: Short Stories.

Are you curious to discover the four that I cherish the most?

 

Rebecca

The unnamed narrator of this astonishing book is a self-doubting young woman who marries Maxim de Winter after meeting him in Monte Carlo. She moves with him to Manderley, his family home, where her insecurities and doubts are greatly amplified. How can she ever be as perfect as his deceased first wife, Rebecca? The first novel I read by Daphne du Maurier remains my favourite. It is enthralling, enigmatic and atmospheric. The gripping mystery is perfectly accompanied by fleshed out characters. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation – from ‘Our Wives under the Sea’ to ‘Hotel Iris’

It’s the beginning of the month, which means that it’s time for another chain of books. Six Degrees of Separation is a bookish meme created by Kate from Books are My Favourite and Best. Every month Kate chooses one book to start the chain and we just have to select other six, each connected in some way with the previous one.

For April the first book is Our Wives under the Sea by Julia Armfield, which I haven’t read yet, though I enjoyed her collection of short stories Salt Slow. In her debut novel, Miri is happy that her wife, Leah, has returned home from a deep-sea mission. Leah is struggling, however, as that mission has not ended well.

The title of Julia Armfield’s novel reminds me of the short story collection Diving Belles by Lucy Wood. The main character in the first tale, which is memorably atmospheric, goes under the sea on a diving belle to see her husband. The sea is, in fact, a recurring element in many of the stories featured in this collection. Continue reading

The Book Design Tag

When a book I’m interested in is published wrapped up in a beautiful cover, I cannot hide my excitement! I know that what truly matters is the text inside. However, an appealing cover, gorgeously designed, is always a more than welcome extra. As soon as I watched the Book Design Tag on Lil’s Vintage World YouTube channel, I knew that I had to answer the questions myself. How could I miss another opportunity to share and showcase some of the most stunning books that I have on my shelves?

 

  1. A book you bought primarily (or completely) because of the cover

I bought The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton solely because I fell in love with its gorgeous cover that tries to replicate a cabinet house. When I finally read it, I loved it so much that the first post I wrote for this blog was a review about it, although I had finished it a couple of months previously.

 

  1. A book you want to buy that has a beautiful cover

There are so many stunning books on my wish list that it isn’t easy to pick just one. So, I decided to mention the last beautiful book I added to the list of those I want to buy at some point in time – The Haunting Season. It is a collection of ghost stories written by various authors for this particular purpose. Continue reading

Pairs of Books to Gift this Christmas

Are your dear friends and family members eager to receive books this Christmas? One of the options that will make them love you even more is to present them with two books that share some similarities, so they can compare and contrast. Some of the books I’m about to recommend are on the surface obviously very much alike. However, they are not carbon copy of one another. Not only do their authors have disparate writing styles, but the details of the plot also end up making them unique in many ways.

 

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Both Burial Rites and Alias Grace are fictional books inspired by real-life occurrences – two women are considered guilty of murdering two people each. But did they? In Burial Rites, Hannah Kent presents the touching and poignant story of Agnes, whom was sentenced to death after being considered guilty of killing her lover, Nathan, and Pétur in Iceland in the 19th century. While awaiting the day of her execution at the house of one of the officers in the district, she is visited by Assistant Reverend Thorvardur and tells him her version of events.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood focuses on the role that Grace Marks played in the murders of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery. While in prison, she receives the visit of doctor Simon Jordan and recalls various moments from her life until then. Grace’s inner thoughts and reminiscences are strikingly turn into words. Continue reading

Authors I Want to Read Every Year – A Rethink

I don’t ever want reading to feel like a chore. When in 2017 I wrote a post about the authors that I wanted to read every year, I didn’t expect to constantly have to check it a couple of years down the line in order to make sure that I would have enough time to read books by those authors. The fact that I was almost forcing myself to find the time is certainly a sign that I am not truly eager to read books by them. A rethink is obviously needed!

My list of authors to read every year featured Margaret Atwood, Charles Dickens, John Burnside, Ian McEwan, Daphne du Maurier, José Saramago and Mia Couto. From these authors, there are only three that I feel I would have picked up books by this year if it were not for the list – Daphne du Maurier, José Saramago and Margaret Atwood. Unsurprisingly, these authors are some of my favourites of all time.

Why am I not as excited to read books by the other authors as I was before? I don’t have a definite, single answer. In the cases of Charles Dickens and John Burnside, it’s probably because I was disappointed with the latest books that I picked up by them. Mia Couto’s novels were starting to feel a bit samey to me, though I enjoyed them all. And I’ve always had a difficult reading relationship with Ian McEwan, having enjoyed some of his books and disliked others. Continue reading

Favourite Authors of All Time

There are authors whose work we, as dedicated readers, want to continue to explore for years to come. We treasure almost all of the books that we read by them and, thus, cannot wait to pick up again a few more of the novels, poetry or short story collections that they wrote for our enjoyment.

My favourite authors of all time are those whose work I’m constantly recommending to other readers, even though I didn’t equally love all of the books that I read by them and don’t think that all of them are perfect. I have read three or more books by the authors below, and their work has a special place in my heart.

 

Daphne du Maurier

I fell in love with Daphne du Maurier the moment I read Rebecca, my favourite book by her followed by Jamaica Inn. Her work doesn’t fit neatly into one genre, comprising both historical fiction and sci-fi, for example. But both her novels and short stories tend to be atmospheric, enthralling, gripping and slightly mysterious. The characters that she created are vivid and many unforgettable. I’ve read nine of Daphne du Maurier’s books so far! I haven’t finished exploring her work yet, though. I still have at least eight of her other books on my wish list. Continue reading

Most Owned and Read Authors – Second Update

There’s something special about reading a book by an author whose work we are becoming increasingly familiar with. It doesn’t matter how many books we have read by some authors, we still want to continue to explore their work, compare and contrast, discover similarities or disparities between books. For that reason, there are some authors that are more prevalent than others on our shelves.

I wrote my first ‘Most Owned and Read Authors’ post in 2017. Back then, I still had on my shelves many of the books that I had read as a child and a teenager. I since then gave almost all of them away, as I didn’t plan to read them ever again and had lost that somewhat inexplicable sentimental connection with them. I also started to only keep on my shelves the books that I either loved or enjoyed, plus some that I only found passable but that have some special characteristic to them. Still, as there weren’t many changes on the authors featured on the first update of my most owned and read authors a year later, I decided to stop writing this kind of posts annually.

I have now realised that two authors (Daphne du Maurier and José Saramago) who didn’t even make it onto the list before have since then become significantly prominent. The time has come for a second update! It’s important to recall that these are not necessarily the authors that I have read more books by. But they are in a way the ones that I’ve enjoyed the most books by, either because they have written book series I cherished or because I’m an admirer of their work in general. Continue reading

‘Don’t Look Now: Short Stories’ by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 stars

The five tales featured in Don’t Look Now: Short Stories by Daphne du Maurier are all distinct from one another, thanks to either their unique main characters, their settings, or contrasting types of narrative. Nevertheless, almost all of them share a disconcerting ambience, albeit in various degrees. Not all of the stories are enthralling, but a couple are just stupendous.

The eponymous story, ‘Don’t Look Now’, is an outstanding opener to the collection. It is an engaging tale, full of not only moments of tangible tension, but also occasional instances of humour. John and Laura were on holidays in Italy trying to overcome the death of their little girl. At a restaurant, they became intrigued by two twin sisters. Laura decided to discreetly follow one of them to the toilets and on her return revealed to John that the woman had told her that she had seen their daughter sitting next to them. She had always had an interest in the occult, but it was only when she became blind that she started seeing things. John was not convinced by this story. He was far less inclined to believe in anything supernatural than Laura and feared for her mental health. He didn’t like the sisters, nor did he believe in them. But should he?

‘Not After Midnight’ is also unsettling. It was impossible not to be intrigued and enthralled throughout. The narrator used to be a schoolmaster but resigned to avoid being dismissed. He justified his resignation with ill-health, a problem caused by a bug he caught while holidaying on the island of Crete in Greece. His problem seems to be connected with his mental health, though. He became extremely afraid of something after he stayed in a room previously occupied by a man who drowned. Continue reading

‘Frenchman’s Creek’ by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 stars

As in many other of Daphne du Maurier’s books, the Cornish coastline comes to life in Frenchman’s Creek. But not only does this historical novel feature a myriad of delightful and evocative descriptions of the locations where the action takes place, it also comprises superb dialogues and many thrilling moments. The main character just falls in love with a French pirate a little too fast for it to feel fully realistic, despite both of them having captivating personalities.

Lady Dona St Columb was married to Harry with whom she had two children, Henrietta and James. Bored of the shallow life she had in the London court, she decided to retreat to Navron, her husband’s estate in Cornwall. When she arrived there with her children, she encountered a dusty house and was surprised to learn that William, the manservant, had been living there alone for a year. Only after being informed that she was coming did he hire other servants.

Soon after her arrival at Navron, she received an unexpected visit from a neighbour who informed her that a pirate, known as the Frenchman, was constantly seizing their goods. She felt some admiration for the pirate, since he had managed to fool them all. Little did she know that she would soon make his acquaintance. While walking around her property, she found the ship of the Frenchman. She tried to leave without being seen, but a man came from behind her and managed to blind her and pin her hands. She was then taken to the ship where she met the infamous pirate, Jean-Benoit Aubéry. Their first interaction is hilarious. He was totally different from what she expected, being indisputably knowledgeable. Continue reading