International No.1 bestseller Ken Follett returns with The Evening and The Morning, a thrilling and addictive novel from the master of historical fiction.
It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages, and in England one man's ambition to make his abbey a centre of learning will take the reader on an epic journey into a historical past rich with ambition and rivalry, death and birth, love and hate.
Thirty years ago, Ken Follett published his most popular novel, The Pillars of The Earth, which has sold over 27 million copies worldwide.
Now, this novel, the prequel, will take the readers on an epic journey that will end where The Pillars of The Earth begins . . .
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British. Born Wales. Graduated UCL in philosophy. Started out as a reporter then worked for a small publisher. Made his name with Eye of The Needle (1978), a World War 2 thriller set in Britain, which won an Edgar award and sold by the truckload. Has published 32 books (possibly more) so far. Almost 180 million copies sold across 80 countries in 33 languages. Best known for The Pillars of the Earth (1989), a thousand page door stop set in the 12th century about the building of a cathedral in the fictional English town of Kingsbridge (there's a real Kingsbridge in the UK, but Mr Follett's is different). That alone has sold 27 million copies. Two equally lengthy sequels regarding the cathedral's progress in the 14th and 16th century followed. I haven't read either, largely because they end up in the Tudor period, an era of limited interest to me that has been done to death (Thomas More's, Anne Boleyn's, and Thomas Cromwell's especially) in recent years courtesy of Hillary Mantel. This one is a prequel of sorts, set at the end of the Dark Ages (it starts in 997 and continues to 1007). No cathedrals this time.
After the Romans bailed out of Britain, things went backwards for a long time. The period is referred to as the Dark Ages. (Makes you think about what might happen post-Brexit, doesn't it?) The English were under near constant siege from the east from Viking raiders (axes, helmets with horns, rape, pillage, slave taking) and from the Welsh (don't ask) in the west. The King at the time was named Ethelred the Unready, which gives you an idea of the ability of central government to protect its people. The Normans didn't bring feudalism in till 1066, but the rents exacted by the landholding noblemen and the church created much the same sort of conditions for peasants. Life was hard, and cheap. If you made it into your forties, you were doing well. Follett weaves a story involving three entirely different individuals: a young boat builder for whom life as he knew it ended with a Viking raid; a Norman noblewoman from Cherbourg, just across the English channel, who marries an Englishman for love (not the done thing at the time); and a monk with his heart set on making his ramshackle monastery into a great centre of learning.
Third person from POVs of the principals
With nearly 1000 pages to play with, Mr F's character development should be good and it is. The protagonists and many of the supporting cast are keenly drawn to elucidate the nature of the times. The history lesson is sufficiently personalised that it never felt didactic to me.
The author is a dab hand at this sort of thing by now. It's long, sure, but things rarely drag. The blood and guts and fornication and other bodily functions are more than enough to prevent torpor setting in for readers.
George R R Martin sans dragons. I found myself channelling Monty Python's Holy Grail more than once too, but feel I understand the Dark Ages much better. (I was coming off a low base it must be said).