The Steady Running of the Hour, by Justin Go
In one sense Go’s book is magnificent. In another, it’s a bit flawed. Let me explain. Perhaps a writer who reads this will see the mirrored characters, how their similar lives are different, and enjoy Go’s gift for suspense, his powers of observation translated to the page. But whether experienced by writer or stouthearted reader, Go leaves you unsatisfied.
Early in the 20th Century, Ashley Walsingham meets Imogen Soames-Andersson purely by chance. Ashley is about to enter World War I, and so his seemingly perfect romance with Imogen is interrupted all too soon, with Imogen pregnant. The remainder of their mutual experience is in their attempts, despite the war and despite each one’s sense of personal destiny, to forge a long-lasting love. Then, in early 21st Century, A young Californian, Tristan Campbell, learns that he may be the heir of Ashley’s fabulous wealth, but he must first prove that he’s the rightful descendant of Ashley and Imogen – all in some three months. And so, with this mystery in our hip pocket, we follow Tristan across Europe as he picks up clue after unsatisfying clue to his assumed forbears. But it’s in Paris that Tristan meets footloose artist, Mireille, and they, too, fall in love, although not as impulsively as do Ashley and Imogen. It’s here in the story that the dynamics of their relationship diverge dramatically from those of Ashley and Imogen, who seem lost in the fog of war, the overloud trumpeting of their era’s wars and gender relationships.
And yet, Tristan and Mireille are the inheritors of Ashley and Imogen’s lives. But many historical waters have passed in the intervening century, and these two are bound by the steady running of Go’s hour not to make the same mistakes made by Ashley and Imogen.
The book is casually edited, annoying in its typos and mis-wordings, but these flaws pale in the presence of Go’s vision and otherwise stellar prose. Go seems reluctant to allow Tristan, his protagonist, to air his innermost thoughts during his trek through Europe. To Go, the story must bear the burden of both character and plot – an adventure Go almost pulls off, despite its minor structural flaws.
My rating: 16 of 20 stars