01 October 2020

Review: The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett book cover
* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

When I heard Ken Follett was writing a prequel to The Pillars of the Earth, I couldn't believe it. The Kingsbridge books are such a terrific and iconic series, I found myself resisting a prequel. I worried that a prequel could dilute the overall quality of the series if it wasn't done well. Even worse, if it was done poorly it could tarnish my view of this epic series. I needn't have worried though. The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett is a masterpiece of historical fiction and I loved it!

Set in 997AD, I was quickly pulled into the lives of our main characters and became invested in their circumstances. Ken Follett does an incredible job of immersing the reader in the happenings and lives of a household, village or town, making you genuinely care for their individual and collective welfare and prosperity.

Edgar the boatbuilder was an immediate favourite and of course, there are the ever present themes of good versus evil in terms of holy members of the church or righteous merchants and farmers on the one hand and greedy and ambitious men - regardless of their station - grasping for power on the other. 

The harsh conditions of the poor and the everyday lives of farmers, bakers, priests and more enriched my enjoyment as well as my knowledge of the time period and the danger of Viking raids. (Previously informed by shows like The Last Kingdom and Vikings).

The Evening and the Morning contains strong and smart female characters that I loved and loathed in equal measure, whilst admiring the skilful ways in which they navigated the dominance of the men in their lives. Themes of marriage and inheritance were present as were issues of marrying for love, convenience or enhancement.

Coming in at more than 800 pages, I enjoyed the deep characterisation this level of scrutiny allows, throwing up gems like this from page 197:
"And, Edgar reflected, Dreng's parsimony outweighed his malice."
Familiar themes of class and society were explored, although my favourite parts of the novel occurred when hard work and determination finally overcame hardship and steady progress was made. What a simple yet complicated joy!

Being a prequel, clearly this takes place prior to the commencement of the construction of the cathedral, but did so in such a logical and gentle way as to provide a perfect foundation for The Pillars of the Earth. (Pun intended). And when I read the words King's Bridge for the first time, I was deeply moved.

Just as in World Without End and A Column of Fire, The Evening and the Morning can be enjoyed as a standalone, however the reader familiar with the series will gain so much more in the experience.

And while I hardly ever re-read a book, I am now very tempted to revisit The Pillars of the Earth.

With the prequel published this month, the Kingsbridge series by Ken Follett now looks like this:
(Kingsbridge #0) The Evening and the Morning, published 2020
(Kingsbridge #1) The Pillars of the Earth, published 1989
(Kingsbridge #2) World Without End, published 2007
(Kingsbridge #3) A Column of Fire, published 2017

All in all, The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett was a mighty and engaging read and a worthy addition to the series. Highly recommended!

You can seize the book from Booktopia

My Rating:

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  1. I enjoyed this book too and will write a review soon. Your review was great.

    1. I'm so glad you loved this too Laura, it was brilliant wasn't it? Thanks for your comment and feel free to come back and share a link to your review.


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