Ken Follett is the massively successful author of 36 books – selling over 178 million copies worldwide. He writes thrillers and mysteries but his most popular books are the Pillars of the Earth Trilogy. That first book, PILLARS OF THE EARTH, was published in 1989 was about the building of a medieval cathedral. It was number one on best-seller lists everywhere and turned into a major television series in 2010. Full disclosure: I have not read the trilogy – HOWEVER, I did just read the prequel to the Pillars of the Earth that came out in September 2021: THE EVENING AND THE MORNING. The prequel is set in the Dark Ages, which may explain my following comments.
Let me preface these comments by saying that I typically enjoy historical fiction. But perhaps I am a fickle historical fiction fan. To be more precise, I may be a fan of more contemporary historical fiction . . . as in anything from the seventeenth century forward. The Dark Ages are just that . . . very, very, dark. And they were even worse if you were a woman, or a slave, or a woman who was a slave.
Let me tell you what I liked about THE EVENING AND THE MORNING: some of the characters, particularly Ragna and Edgar. Ragna is a noblewoman from Normandy who marries and moves to the fictional town of Kingsbridge, England. Edgar is a boatbuilder whose love interest is killed during a Vikings raid in the first pages of the novel. The plot is fast paced . . . which made it a quick read for an 800-page book . . . and it is not without intrigue. The bad guys are really, really bad. And the good guys are really, really good.
Ragna soon discovers that the customs in England are shockingly different than in Normandy, as in: slavery, polygamy, castration and blinding as punishments for crimes or even alleged crimes, corrupt leaders of the church, kidnapping, enslavement, and murder. Did I mention that it was dark? If you are a sensitive soul, you may want to pass. Or, as one of my book club members said, read it twice – the second time you won’t be as traumatized and you may actually enjoy The Evening and the Morning, from an historical perspective.
Can I recommend THE EVENING AND THE MORNING? Let me just say, it’s not for everyone, but no book really is – right? If you are a stalwart fan of the Pillars of the Earth Trilogy, it’s a must-read. And if you have not read the trilogy, like me, you can certainly read The Evening and the Morning as a stand-alone novel. Overall, I’m glad I read it. It’s good to read outside of your lane from time to time. And, now when someone waxes poetic about the series, I can join in the conversation, or listen politely and nod my head.
This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews. Listen to my author interviews on Superior Reads the fourth Thursday of every month at 7:00 pm and the following Saturday at 6:00 am.