TWO BOOK REVIEWS: THE EVENING and THE MORNING (Ken Follett) and SPY (Danielle Steel)
Thirty years ago, Ken Follett published one of my MOST favorite novels (that blossomed into the KINGSBRIDGE series…) PILLARS OF THE EARTH. Now, a prequel to the Kingsbridge Trilogy, THE EVENING and THE MORNING, shows Kingsbridge’s humble origins and how it grows into the bustling city it would eventually become.
The tome (900+ pages) begins towards the end of England’s “Dark Ages.” Starting in the year 997 CE, it covers the years to 1007 (…actually about 125 years before PILLARS begins.) Kingsbridge doesn’t exist…there are just a few buildings in a run down hamlet, Dreng’s Ferry…far from any of England’s major cities at that time..
The story blends many characters, both sinister and well intentioned, into the developing hamlet of Dreng’s Ferry…the beginnings of Kingsbridge from Follett’s Kingsbridge series. The story takes us through the interweaving of these characters who eventually shape the town and the cathedral that many of us came to know in Follett’s previous books. The characters became familiar…a well-intentioned man of the cloth, a very bright young peasant man with the mind of an engineer, a wellborn lady brought below her station by circumstance, a vicious clergyman obsessed with personal ambition and a brutish thug of an overlord. Each character, brilliantly developed, became part of my family!! Much of the plot revolves around the personal lives of the main players (above)…their loves, losses, dreams, scandals, betrayals, marriages and children.
Anything Ken Follett writes is a masterpiece. His intricate plots, deep characters and his writing voice work together to create beautiful book tapestries. This good vs. evil book, THE EVENING and the MORNING, proved to be a most enjoyable escapist journey via historical fiction.
Danielle Steel’s SPY is a historical fiction novel that combines elements of espionage, romance, drama and mystery. It’s a story of family relationships, loss, standing up and fighting for your beliefs…and commitment. Our heroine is Alexandra Wickham, a young British aristocrat.
To me, this book is divided into two parts. The first half of the novel is about Alex’s service in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) branch of England’s military. She begins her journey in 1939 when she joins the war effort following her two brothers. Starting as a truck driver for the armed forces, her capacity to prevail in the face of adversity catches the attention of MI6. Her fearless nature and flair for languages sees her recruited as a spy, working behind enemy lines on perilous missions.
In the second half of SPY, Danielle Steel traces Alex’s life over three decades of intelligence service during wartime and peacetime…a risky, treacherous existence- indeed, living a double and secret life. We also see her falling in love, becoming a wife, mother and eventually a grandmother.
Most WWII spy novels end with the spy returning to civilian life…something I think would be a very difficult transition. Instead of the ordinary, Steel places Alex in key international locations with her diplomat husband, (while maintaining her secret spy status for MI6,) as the world is rebuilding after the war and into the Cold War…Britain, France, India, Russia, Morocco and the United States…an interesting spin.
Although I got a real feeling for what it was like to be a spy during challenging times, while keeping it all secret from loved ones, I didn’t feel I really got to know the characters well enough. That being said, I did enjoy this quick read and DO RECOMMEND it!