The ending of Castle Dor is sad, yet not bleak. It has to end tragically as it a reworking of the myth of Tristan and Yseult. I was a littel shocked to discover this as one of my many half finished efforts has a similar idea as its starting point. It is not entirely her own work, but an unfinished novel by Sir Arthur Quiller Couch that his family asked her to complete. Thus its style is different to her other novels, though it has some of the charm and romantic sense of place of Frenchman's Creek. I enjoyed it, though the supernatural element is a little clumsy in places. One of the principal pleasures of it is the depiction of Dr Carfax, a wonderful character who reminded me of Dr Prunesquallor in Gormenghast.
I thought there were two more novels to read, but I was wrong. The last of the selection I bought was The Flight of the Falcon. It was frankly a bit rubbish really. It was published in 1965, set in 1962 in barely-disguised Urbino. Nothing about it rings true. None of the novels was realistic, but they were all convincing enough for me to suspend my disbelief till this one. There was the same theme of doubling, the familiar unlikeably weak narrator but a new and seemingly condemnatory approach to the very lazily sketched female characters. The depiction of hip young things did not work at all; it was didfficult not to dismiss this as the inability of an ageing author to understand the young people around her. There is also something patronising about the depiction of the Italians, too.
Reading nine novels spanning thirty years in the career of one author has been a rewarding experience, even if the last was a little disappointing. I certainly registered themes and devices in ways that I wouldn't had I not read them consecutively. I have also been able to observe the way her writing becomes more assured and, in some ways, formulaic. I do not think she is a great literary author, but she is undoubtedly a marvellous storyteller. I suspect at some stage I will reread Jamaica Inn, Frenchman's Creek, My Cousin Rachel and Castle Dor.