Book Review: The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett

The Evening and the Morning was my introduction to the writings of Ken Follett. Ken Follett had been in my mind for a good while. The reason for this is quite personal. A friend had suggested that I send a historical fiction manuscript to Ken Follett asking him to publish it under his name. What a thought! I suppose that sort of thing happens, arranged or even not arranged. I did not wish to consider it, and Ken Follett probably would not have considered it either. Yet, I did keep an eye on Follett’s books and browsed them at times. Such a following, so many sales, so many people highlighting The Pillars of the Earth as their favorite. Well, as it happened, I had an audio credit available earlier this month and decided to finally get PotE. When I was seaching for it, I found EatM was coming out in some days and it was possible to pre-order it. So, this was also my first pre-order book.

The Evening and the Morning by Follett is a long book. It is nearly 1 000 pages long and just over 24 hours on the audible. It sets the scene for his popular series and is thus a prequel for the Pillars of the Earth. However, there is a slight time gap between the events of these two books, so the books do not need to be read in sequence. As I have only read The Morning and the Evening, I can’t make comparisions between these two books. I will make comparisions with my earlier historical fiction reading.

Historical fiction needs to be connected to a time, a place and a character. Connection in time is hard, as a lot of it will ultimately fall upon the writer’s imagination. This cannot, of course, be the only basis for writing about the time. There has to be sound historical research and this has to be evident in the descriptions. Easiest would be to describe costumes, buildings, scenery and vechicles. So much pictorial material is readily available. It would be more difficult to weave historical events into personal histories of the characters. This is were I felt Follett could have worked harder. In Pacific Viking Barnaby Allen’s sound research in comparision is evident. There are several specific incidents and political agendas described and thus connected to the main character. As to the question of place, I feel Follett does a little better. He describes location so that it can be visualized. However, at times locations are a little confusing as to their relation to each other, and I feel that the accessibility does give into the story line at times. As I purchased the audible, this may in part be my fault. No map to peruse… It is ultimately the characters that failed to convince me. The three main characters are clearly different and thus slightly too far removed from each other. There is also a wish to present them always in a good light – even in the face of adversary. And quite a few of the other people are then represented as side kicks of not much importance or just plain villains. This all is in a direct contradiction to how Barnaby Allen describes Charlie Savage or even some of the other characters in Pacific Viking. People are formed both of light and shadows. That is what makes things interesting.

In my reading I value beautiful writing. It seems to matter to me. It makes me wish to stay with the book. Getting to the end is not the only goal. There is enjoyment being in the same world with the writer. This is what happened to me with the Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting. I don’t mean just nice polite and pretty events, you see I have read all the violent scenes and wittnessed the dark nature of man in Pacific Viking. I mean the flow of language. I mean the author’s search for words. Not just Edgar said, Aldred said, Ragna said or Ma said. I even like long sentences.

I had to do this. I had to finish the book too. I had to rate the book too. I don’t have to recommend the book. I am sure fans of Ken Follett will like the book and I can see why they like him. Follett is secure in his writing. He has a formula that has made him money. It is something many like. So it is and so it will be. It is perhaps just the things that I did not like that sell his books. There is lots of action, simple sentences, easy characters and some tension – all in a lovely, blue, thick book. Historical times too – and therefore the expectancy of learning something as well. Good escapism for the weary person in these busy, complicated times.

STARS: 3/5

Pacific Viking by Barnaby Allen (dramatizing the fire in Uddevalla, 29.7.1806)

   “As Our Lord or luck would have it, a fragment of burning chip had left the furnace with the dislodged shovel, tumbling onto the unswept wood chip-covered floor near to the stove. Nothing remarkable had happened at first, but in time, as a boy sees when capturing the sun through a magnifying glass and directing it onto a dried leaf, a curl of smoke heralded a tiny flame that sparked the dust it lay on and thence, spread to a larger chip next to it. Before long, the floor was on fire! It was summer, the woodpile thrown by the stove small, but it was dry and soon caught light, the fire spreading up the wall. The shoemaker was further away now, lost in bushes and long grass with other boozers, whilst his furniture, workbenches and home, blazed! The flames shot up, reaching to surrounding trees, torching the grass and leaves of the unkempt yard shared with the apotek. The apothecary, alarmed by the smell of smoke and seeing nothing through the shop front, opened his rear window and gasped, disbelieving. He ran into the yard to stand, rigid in shock at the sight of his property burning. Herr Wiklund raised his hands about his head, as if in trance, stupefied by his helplessness, realizing that right before him, his shop, his history built of patient, precise affection, his walls and shelves that in seconds would burn and blister and crumble, were yet standing! He could do nothing! Those walls bore the jabbering of thousands of adults and children, the clatter of the dispensing of bottles and jars of sweets and potions, all the noise of his and his fathers’ laboured lives, unjustly condemned to imminent execution! He was forced back from this contemplation though for the fire had found its way across the yard to him and the doomed shop. He turned, too pained to weep, and ran from the sight out into the unsuspecting street, screaming the alarm.

   The fire service had arrived too late to prevent the blaze spreading over the trees and roofs of the neighbouring properties. A fair wind had furthermore caught the flames and flown them, with evil abandon, beyond the street to buildings behind it and up the hill toward the church. The fire swirled, scooping up dry leaves and twigs that, lying neglected for too long that summer, would in flight, avenge, diving and rising again, fluttering with Puck-like mischief to light the gardens, bushes and trees of central Uddevalla. People poured out in panic, as people must pour out in such situations, some with pails drawing water from wells, others with odd-looking metal fire syringes, sucking up water from buckets and hoping, impossibly, to save their homes! Many deployed longish swats of hemp, a brush intended for fighting fire, but that now seemed foolishly inept! Others grabbed anything, filling jars, vats, frantic, yet already defeated by the storm unleashed by such rapid combustion that its surcease was quite impossible. Fire fell from heaven as trees burned and branches exploded, dashed to earth, sending children and parents fleeing, wounded, to escape incineration in this unforetold Armageddon. Or was it to be a kinder cleansing? At the river’s edge, oak boughs leaned over to embrace, their leaves as cloven tongues of fire, kissing sanguine cousins on the opposite bank, branches long unchecked throughout the verdant summer. Their zealous lips soon smoked and burned, tongues flicking, promiscuous in the orgy of renewal and spiritual illumination. A rushing wind blew hard! Their lips licked seductively, caressing each tree, each home, shop, and school on every beloved street – the passion unstoppable! Each heard and understood the other and in responding, discovered, absurdly, a sheer purity in the billowing, blackening intensity of the furnace! Their hearts burned within, as everything else burned all about!”

As you can see, I am using Ken Follett here to market Pacific Viking by Barnaby Allen. Not in the way our friend suggested, but still I highlight PV here. PV was written by my late husband and I have self-published it on Amazon. I promised to carry his words. He did not ask me to. I know he was happy that I would. After his death, I found a recording in which he stated that in facing death it was a consolation that his words would live after him.

Hear him read his own words here:


  1. I always enjoy Ken Follett and have read the 2nd and 3rd books in this series. However I am not much interested in the period of history covered by this book, so will not rush to read it yet. Thank you for the extracts from Pacific Viking – magical prose. It is so sad that we will not have a chance to read more from Barnaby Allen, such a great talent. If you are listening Barnaby, know that your voice has been heard.


  2. Ken Follett’s books have been on my wishlist for a long time – thanks for this balanced review, I’ll still read the books but like you, I like long sentences and a lot of scene setting in the historical fiction I read. Feeling curious to give them a read (or a download)!

    Liked by 1 person

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