The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go
|The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A dual time frame novel (not time slip) that's a genre buster. Two love stories, the trauma of World War I, the exhiliaration of mountain climbing and a race-against-time paper chase all packed in one volume.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 480||Date: May 2014|
|Publisher: William Heinemann|
|External links: Author's website|
Tristan Campbell, an American graduate, receives a phone call from an English law firm summoning him to London for a secret meeting. Mountaineer and adventurer Ashley Walsingham died in 1926 without any direct heirs. Since then his family's legacy has been in limbo while an heir is traced. They believe Tristan could be that lucky person but there's a catch. He has to prove the family connection within 7 weeks (when the 80 year limitation on the fortune runs out). The clock is ticking while Tristan starts a hunt that will take him across Europe.
Once upon a time an American with no experience of writing quit his job in a Manhattan law firm, and moved to Berlin on a whim and an urge. There he wrote a novel and crossed the line from unemployed-ex-lawyer to accomplished author. The American is Justin Go and this is that debut novel which is almost as genre packed as it gets – in a good way.
Justin juxtaposes two romances from different centuries against a brutally honest war story, the excitement of mountain climbing pre-health and safety and a race against time to solve a mystery that continues to thicken.
The romances are a particularly good idea (and bloke-friendly, without much girly squishy stuff) as they emphasise how lucky we are in today's society. It compares Tristan's modern impromptu amorous adventure with the more strait-jacketed conditions that Ashley was constricted by. At the turn of the 20th century it wasn't only the heart that came into play but also the mores, one's reputation and the risk of stiff upper lips leading to miscommunication. That's without the complication of having to go away to war, facing the accompanying uncertainties.
The war story is of course Ashley's experiences in World War I. This being the centenary of the start of the conflagration, we're reading a lot of books set between 1914 and 1918 so it's easy to assume that we've seen it all. However Justin still manages to bring us scenes and factoids that shed new light on the moments of horror and futility we've come to associate with the conflict and its aftermath. (Tommies' coded messages home from the front and a new use for a dead horse are just two of the instances that were new to me.) We may know from the beginning that Ashley emerges alive, but that doesn't detract from the fear, emotional engagement and knowledge that there's more than one kind of death.
I've seen The Steady Running… referred to as a time slip novel in a few places but it's not really; it's a multiple timeframe story. The difference? The former includes a character that, by some device, slips through time. The latter, as in the case of this book, means that we the readers are the ones who travel back and forth. Don't let this put you off though. Justin provides devices to make the transition uncomplicated and enjoyable. For instance Ashley's chapters are in third person whereas Tristan tells us his story himself.
I found both chaps equally likeable. At one stage I did wonder whether it was a bit daft for Tristan to dash across Europe to prove ancestry but two things changed my mind. Initially I was happy with the thought that he's an adventurous type who would enjoy the chase. Then he hears how much is at stake and the motivation increases. (I could write more about that but then I'd seep into spoiler country.)
Talking about money and trailing across Europe, Justin made a good call with his own decision. This isn't only the sort of novel that will get him noticed and hopefully even a movie deal (that sort of book!) but also a permanent ticket out of the Manhattan office where fancy first struck. Justin, the German trip worked; where are you taking us next?
(We'd definitely like to thank William Heinemann for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you'd like to read more of World War I we recommend the contemporary accounts in No Man's Land: Writings From A World At War by Pete Ayrton (editor). If you'd like something looking at war in a more fictionalised way, try the superlative Trieste – a different war but just as affecting. Prefer the romantic aspect of life? Then settle back with Ferney by James Long which is a time slip novel.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go at Amazon.com.
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