A Review of “The Evening and The Morning” by Ken Follet
Ken Follet is one of the most engaging writers I have had the pleasure of reading. He blends the mundane details of a history happening into a semi-fictional world he spins up and makes its very easy for us to remember the smallest of details.
As I walked into the library and looked for books in English, I stumbled upon this prequel to one of my other favourite books, ‘The Pillars of the Earth’, and could not resist picking up the same. Set towards the end of darks ages in south eastern England this tome details the genesis of the town of Kingsbridge which forms the basis of the next three novels in this series.
The story begins with a viking raid on a sea-side village in south eastern England where the a boat builders life is thrown out of gear. He loses the woman he loved, his father and his livelihood in this freak attack and is forced to move deep inland to Dreng’s Ferry to eke out a living on a farm he is given by the local Bishop. His worldly wise mother helps him and his brothers build a living out in this sleepy new town of hardly any significance.
Across the channel in a Norman Noble woman Ragna is smitten by Wilwulf, an English lord visiting her father, and engages in a passionate affair with him and uproots her life and moves to England for being his bride. She soon realises that this is a folly because of the cultural differences between the two countries especially when it comes to status of women in society and their role in the family.
Like any medieval kingdom the kings justice did not really trickle down to the villages and cities away from the court and the local thanes or nobleman usually held sway. Shiring is no different and Wilwulf along with his half brother Bishop Wynstan hold both temporal and spiritual power in Shiring. This allows them to manipulate and twist and turn the events as it suits their motives.
The young monk Aldred is usually at odds with Bishop Wynstan. Aldred is idealistic and desires to make his cathedral the seat of learning and knowledge while Wynstan merely uses the church’s money to whore, drink and extend his political power.
All of these colourful characters have their own motives and games. Some of them are egalitarian but most of them are self-serving. As the novel progresses, we each of them battle out with their wits and try to gain favours from those that rule. There is clear good and evil in this story. There are those who seek power for themselves and those who just want to use it for the common good. This kind of a white or black world is hard to imagine and I personally would have enjoyed a lot more of grey in the novel. All the characters are from a time I have very little knowledge of and to see them following very rigid notions of good and evil is boring to some extent.
To summarise my tirade, this book is a formulaic story not very different from the rest of the books in the same series but a tad bit dreary in the imagery it invokes.