The Steady Running of the Hour: A Novel. Justin Go. Simon & Schuster. April 2014. 480 pp. ISBN#: 9781476704586.
An American citizen, Tristan Campbell, receives a summons to the law office of an attorney in London, England. It involves a mysterious inheritance that must remain a secret. The entire inheritance will be Tristan’s if he can find paper proof of his grandmother, Imogen Soames-Andersson, in only seven weeks. It sounds like an easy job except that no one has heard of Imogen for years; indeed there is some sort of mystery about the marriage of Imogen to the once famous mountain climber, Ashley Walsingham. So the quest begins!
The novel moves back and forth between Tristan’s search (eighty years after the life of Ashley and Imogen) and Ashley’s experiences as a mountain climber, soldier in WWI, the lover and husband of Imogen, and then as a mountain climber again. Tristan and Ashley could not be more different if they tried. Tristan remains very quiet and unbelievably, solidly methodical, considering what the outcome could be. He travels from London to Europe researching paper trails for Imogen and her sister Eleanor. The trail is fascinating as Eleanor was an artist of some talent and assumed more of a motherly role to her sister. Imogen is mentioned here and there by name only so it is Eleanor who is the link to provide the full story of the turbulent love story of Imogen and Ashley. Tristan then goes to the places where these sisters and Ashley Walsingham actually lived.
Ashley is truly the most powerful figure in this novel. He is a talented, intelligent man who has a chiefly unruly and daring spark to his personality that endears him to both Imogen and his fellow mountain-climbing and military peers. Imogen will try to make him choose between her and the war, but Ashley’s sense of patriotic duty exceeds even his deep, deep feelings for her. One wonders what lies ahead for these star-crossed lovers who cannot live without each other.
Justin Go’s writing talents clearly excel in the way he provides descriptions of the stark brutality of the war as well as the incessant tension present in the mountain climbing experiences of these characters, undaunted by innumerable, formidable obstacles to success. Add to that a heightened sensitivity and perception that every character in this novel possesses and one has the perfect combination for a phenomenal read. This is historical fiction depicting a side of cultural history rarely exposed to the public. There’s something for everyone herein, adventure to romance to mystery to warfare, et al. Fascinating, literate fiction crafted by a talented writer!