Tag Archives: Ken Follett

#BookReview ‘Never’ by @KMFollett #thriller

I’ve read and enjoyed the excellent historical Kingsbridge series by Ken Follett but have never read one of his contemporary thrillers. Never, his latest, is a fast-moving story that, despite being a hefty 832 pages, I read hungrily. Ken FollettInternational politics, terrorism, drug smuggling form an unstoppable chain of events that move the world, inch by inch, to the edge of horrifying conflict. This is the content of so many dramatic films and books and is the basis for Follett’s story. He makes it powerful by letting the events unfold through the eyes of five people in different countries, each involved in local matters with far-reaching implications. As events spiral, I didn’t want to put the book down. It’s an uncomfortable read, the sensible cautious voices are at times shouted down by the brashest, loudest hard-liners and, like all the best thrillers, it makes you think ‘could this happen’ and ‘what would I do.’
Follett’s narrative is premised on how events unfolded prior to the First World War when a chain of seemingly small things culminated in a global conflict. Never starts in Northern Africa. Abdul works undercover, tracking cocaine shipments used to fund IS’s operations in the region. Tamara Levit works for the CIA in Chad where climate change is edging the rural population closer to starvation, forcing many to trek north to Europe in search of a better life. Border conflict with neighbouring Sudan is a daily threat. Chad’s president is an unpredictable dictator and terrorists are using North Korean and Chinese weapons.
In China, the government is polarising. Chang Kai is 45 and vice-president for international intelligence. He is communist royalty. His father is one of the Chinese old guard, a political hardliner, a traditionalist, but Kai is new generation Chinese. He studied at Princeton and is married to a television actress. President Chen is talked at by both sides. Prior to his election he had the ear of the traditionalists but since has taken moderate decisions. Now the North Korean neighbours are causing trouble. When there are problems in the north, it inevitably draws in not only South Korea but also the Americans and Japanese. In America, President Green is dealing with a truculent teenage daughter, an unhappy husband, and a populist challenger who fills the airwaves with dangerous rhetoric.
This is a scary thriller that makes you gobble up the pages without realising. The story is wide-ranging and is better for it. Well researched and expertly paced. The early chapters are slower as characters and situations are introduced and explored, then as the political tensions and dangers increase the story pace picks up. The ending comes in a rush but that is what happens when communications are down and control is lost.
It leaves you asking, ‘what if.’

Click the titles to read my reviews of other Follett novels:-
THE EVENING AND THE MORNING [Kingsbridge prequel]

If you like this, try:-
Exposure’ by Helen Dunmore
The Travelers’ by Chris Pavone
Last Light’ by Alex Scarrow

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#BookReview NEVER by @KMFollett #thriller https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5R4 via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘The Evening and the Morning’ by @KMFollett #historical

I absolutely loved The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett. It is thirty years since Follett published his monster hit The Pillars of the Earth and this novel is his prequel to what became the Kingsbridge series. Set in Southern England in the year 997 at the end of the Dark Ages – so called because the lack of historical documents and archaeological remains from the time means our knowledge of the era is thin – it was a period of unrest and war. Viking raids, skirmishes with the Welsh, the law allows violence against slaves while power-hungry local rulers disobey the rules of King Ethelred. Ken Follett

The story is told by three principal characters – a French noblewoman, a young English boatbuilder and an English monk. Each is smart, ambitious and honest but they are confronted by violence, cruelty, law-breaking, jealousy and betrayal.

In the west country village of Combe, eighteen-year old boatbuilder Edgar waits on the beach for his true love. She is married and the pair are going to run away together. But as Edgar waits, he sees the arrival of a Viking ship and his life changes. The town is destroyed. Three powerful brothers arrive to examine the damage – Wilwulf, ealdorman of local region Shiring; Bishop Wynstan of Shiring; and Wilgelm, thane of Combe – each will lose income because of the raid. It is decided a visit to Normandy is necessary to ask for support from Count Hubert, a Norman lord in Cherbourg who has influence with the Vikings.

In Normandy, Hubert receives two English visitors, a monk and a priest. The monk, Brother Aldred, has a chest of books he has bought in a French abbey. His plan is to create a library, a scriptorium, at Shiring Abbey. Hubert’s daughter Ragna is under pressure from her parents to marry a local lord she dislikes. She wishes Guillaume was educated like Aldred who, being a monk, is celibate. But when English lord Wilwulf arrives, she quickly falls in love.

Ragna travels to England where she will marry Wilfulf. En route she arrives at Dreng’s Ferry and meets Edgar. His family now lives on a farm at this, a poor, lawless place where the local dean and clergy live life to their own rules.  This is the beginning of a long friendship that will last many years. Though life as the wife of an English ealdorman is not what she expected, Ragna is supported by the presence in Shiring of Aldred who also becomes a friend.

This is an endlessly fascinating story, with so many twists and turns, achievements and horrific setbacks for the three friends that it’s easy to get lost in the ups and downs of their lives. The structure of the story may be predictable at times but the characters are strongly written, the historical setting is believable and the themes of friendship and perseverance are uplifting.

As soon as I finished reading it – and it’s a long book, 832 pages – I wanted to start at the beginning again. The last time I felt like that was when I finished The Pillars of the Earth.

Read my review of The Pillars of the Earth.

If you like this, try:-
The Almanack’ by Martine Bailey
Days Without End’ by Sebastian Barry
The Signature of All Things’ by Elizabeth Gilbert

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE EVENING AND THE MORNING by @KMFollett #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-59F via @SandraDanby