The Evening and the Morning, by Ken Follet – an epic masterwork set in the English Middle Ages
Ken Follet has been one of my favorite authors for many, many years. I love historical novels, and Ken Follet’s are among the greatest and best known in the world. The Kingsbridge saga, initially consisting of The Pillars of the Earth, A World Without End and A Column of Fire, is in my opinion a must read for anyone who loves historical novels.
The Evening and the Morning is the latest addition to the saga, but instead of continuing where A Column of Fire ends, it takes place between the years 997 and 1007, at the end of the Middle Ages and during the years of the Viking’s constant raids in the south of England. It is therefore a PREQUEL to The Pillars of the Earth, and in it we discover the story of the origin of Kingsbridge, the city in which The Pillars of the Earth and the other two novels of the saga take place.
Following the same style of the previous novels of the saga, we will essentially discover a struggle between good and evil through the lives of several characters. We will experience magnificently developed intrigues, in which we will witness selfishness, ambition, hatred, the struggle for power, and death; but also love, intelligence, faith, and hope
About the Author – Ken Follet
Ken Follet is a Welsh author who has sold more than 170 million copies of his 36 books in more than 80 countries and 33 languages. He was born on June 5, 1949 in Cardiff, Wales, and graduated in Philosophy from University College London before beginning his career as a reporter, first at the South Wales Echo and then at the London Evening News.
Ken’s first major success came with the publication of The Eye of the Needle in 1978. However, his epic novel about the building of a medieval cathedral, The Pillars of the Earth, published in 1989, became a number one bestseller and was made into a major television series produced by Ridley Scott, which aired in 2010.
The Kingsbridge series is considered one of his most notable works, and includes The Pillars of the Earth, A World Without End and A Column of Fire, as well as the most recent, The Evening and the Morning, which is a prequel to The Pillars of the Earth.
Ken Follet’s books are known for their historical accuracy, his detailed descriptions of settings and characters, and his ability to take readers back to different eras. His writing style has been described as captivating and suspenseful, with believable and relatable characters.
What is it about? – Synopsis
It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages. England is facing attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Those in power bend justice according to their will, regardless of ordinary people and often in conflict with the king. Without a clear rule of law, chaos reigns.
In these turbulent times, three characters find their lives intertwined. A young boatbuilder’s life is turned upside down when the only home he’s ever known is raided by Vikings, forcing him and his family to move and start their lives anew in a small hamlet where he does not fit in.
A Norman noblewoman marries for love, following her husband across the sea to a new land, but the customs of her husband’s homeland are shockingly different, and as she begins to realize that everyone around her is engaged in a constant, brutal battle for power, it becomes clear that a single misstep could be catastrophic.
A monk dreams of transforming his humble abbey into a center of learning that will be admired throughout Europe. And each in turn comes into dangerous conflict with a clever and ruthless bishop who will do anything to increase his wealth and power.
What did I think? – Opinion
I already said it at the beginning: Ken Follet is one of my favorite authors. And The Pillars of the Earth is in my top 5 of favorite books. And as expected, I really really liked The Evening and the Morning.
We return to that medieval England that captivated us all in the original trilogy, although we find ourselves in an era prior to The Pillars of the Earth. Personally, I think the story and narration are brilliant, although it is true that it is not entirely on par with The Pillars of the Earth, given that that first novel simply has something magical going on. But it’s still brilliant. Ken Follet has a special gift to get you into the skin of the characters, to experience the story as one of them and, in addition, this time he introduces another historical element that I personally love: Vikings. Also Welsh, but come on, Vikings!
Ken Follet is a master storyteller, and he manages to describe the settings, landscapes and characters in a way that is detailed but not overdone, not boring, as is sometimes the case in other novels. He manages to make you be able to close your eyes and visualize what you are reading. Although I have to admit that The Evening and the Morning is a bit less detailed than the original trilogy when it comes to buildings and constructions, one of the elements that made The Pillars of the Earth so special. But it must be noted that although the element of architecture and construction is present, it is not, a central or main point in this novel.
The characters are the central element of this novel. This is where Ken Follet works real magic, both in the original trilogy and in The Evening and the Morning. The characters are believable, almost real. They have unique personalities, talents and flaws, and show sublime, realistic evolution. And yes, I know that in many novels this is the case. But here the characters simply make you feel something for them in a way that doesn’t happen in many novels. It’s easy to identify with the characters, particularly the main characters.
And if you’ve read Pillars of the Earth, you’ll notice many similarities between the characters in these two novels. In the original novel we have Jack, while here we have Edgar. Aliena in The Pillars of the Earth is the equivalent of Ragna here, Waleran, in the first one, to Wynstan in this one, William to Wighelm and Phillip in the original novel is the equivalent of Aldred in The Evening and the Morning.
This is something that I like very much, because through these similarities it creates a special connection between the novels, although on the other hand it may seem as if Ken Follet is reusing details or ideas from the original novel. Everyone is free to interpret it as they prefer.
The only negative note I could mention is that the ending feels a bit hasty, rushed, in comparison to the rest of the novel. I mean, we spend two thirds of the book in which time progresses slowly, more naturally and calmly, and then, suddenly, the last third of the book is much faster, with time jumps that break the beautiful balance of the rest of the novel. The author will have his reasons for this, and personally I guess he didn’t want his novel to end up being 1200 or more pages long.
Is The Evening and the Morning worth reading? In short, I loved it and found it to be an amazing novel, and a perfect addition to the saga.
The Evening and the Morning, by Ken Follet
Book Title: The Evening and the Morning, by Ken Follet
Book Description: In The Evening and the Morning, through the intertwined lives of three characters, Ken Follett embarks the reader on an epic journey at the end of the Dark Ages, where England faces attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Life is difficult and those who wield some power wield it with an iron fist and often in conflict with the king himself.