Book recommendation: The Evening and the Morning

Title: The Evening and the Morning
Author: Ken Follett
Review by: Friends of Tualatin Library member Laura Baker

Follett is a powerful storyteller who is incredibly skilled at holding the reader’s attention and he definitely doesn’t disappoint in this story.” –Laura

Ken Follett became well known in the 1970s as a thriller writer with a string of international bestsellers, beginning with Eye of the Needle in 1978. His reputation as a thriller writer changed dramatically in 1989 with the publication of The Pillars of the Earth, a thousand-page historical epic focused on the decades-long construction of a cathedral in medieval England. The novel was an immense success and the first of three that described the gradual creation of the English town of Kingsbridge and the many people who played significant roles in its development.

The latest installment in the Kingsbridge series is The Evening and the Morning (September 2020, Viking), which is a prequel to The Pillars of the Earth. Set in the Dark Ages in England, it begins in 997 and ends 10 years later. It follows the adventures and struggles of a diverse set of characters in alternating story lines.

The novel begins with a Viking raid on the coastal town where the protagonist, Edgar, lives with his family. The raid results in the death of young Edgar’s true love and forces his family to move to Dreng’s Ferry, a small and insignificant hamlet where he begins to develop skill as a builder. Edgar meets and allies himself with Brother Aldred, a monk at the nearby priory, and together they overcome continuing obstacles to transform Dreng’s Ferry into a center of spiritual learning and commerce. Edgar eventually builds the bridge that gives the town its purpose and new name.

The other main story line involves Lady Ragna of Cherbourg, a French noblewoman who moves to England after her marriage to Wilfwulf, a local ealdorman. Her disastrous marriage brings her to the attention of the novel’s central villain, Wilfwulf’s brother Wynstan, a corrupt bishop obsessed with power and wealth. Wynstan stands between Edgar and Brother Aldred and their larger plans for the community, as well as between Edgar and Ragna and their relationship.

The Evening and the Morning continues to expand the story of the building of a civilization with its laws, structures and beliefs. The characters are memorable, the pace is swift, the story plenty absorbing with something dramatic happening in almost every chapter. Follett is a powerful storyteller who is incredibly skilled at holding the reader’s attention and he definitely doesn’t disappoint in this story. I was riveted by the action in the first chapter and remained so until the very last page. I hope this won’t be the last installment in the Kingsbridge series.

The Evening and the Morning is available from WCCLS in hardcover, e-book, downloadable audiobook, audiobook CD, and even Large Print!