Customer Reviews: The Steady Running of the Hour: A Novel
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on May 1, 2014
I really enjoyed the story of Ashley and Imogen and their tumultuous history set against the backdrop of World War I and various countries. I was not quite so taken up with the story of Tristan, who has a short time to prove his right to inherit Ashley's secret estate. The novel goes back and forth from present day Tristan's story as he tries to find proof to give the lawyers that will make the estate his, to Ashley and Imogen's tale of love and separation during the War. Justin Go manages this technique quite well. But I felt that the clues Tristan finds are all rather too neatly dumped in his lap, and parts of his story seem almost like a fairy tale. Ashley and Imogen however, really captured my heart. I followed their story and hoped for the best, even though I knew they were "star-crossed lovers," and they would be doomed in the end.

I continued to enjoy the lengthy novel until I got to the last few chapters. And then Mr. Go completely frustrated and irritated me! In an interview, he said that he had made many outlines of the novel and knew the setting of the ending of the novel way before he finished it. I felt that the ending was contrived, confusing, and left me as a reader, totally in the dark! I expected to turn the next page and find out what really happened, but the next page was blank, and that was the end; I had no idea of what was going on. A few chapters before that, I wondered who the woman in the cafe was, and who was Anton? All of a sudden, at the end of the novel, a new character is introduced, and the reader is left to fend for himself; help!! I would love to chat with Mr. Go and see what was in his mind. Anyway, this kind of spoiled a good read for me. I don't mind being left with a few questions at the end of a novel, but I don't like being left in the dark!

So, love the book as a whole, but I sure was frustrated when I finished it. Sorry, Justin.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was attracted to this debut novel when first hearing about it: an historical reconstruction that juggles the present and the past in settings such as London, Paris, Iceland, and Sweden, the WW1 battlefields of Picardy, and the mountains of Snowdonia, the Alps, and Everest. All are among my favorite places and subjects. Then, I thought, what if the author gets it wrong? There have been other novels of similar ambition that have been let down by weak imagination, poor prose, or simply lack of familiarity with the settings and the depth of cultural history that they carry. So a plot involving a young Californian, straight out of college, going on a quest to prove his entitlement to a huge fortune did not promise the perspective that I, as a European of a much earlier generation, was looking for. But this was my first surprise, and a most welcome one too.

For the moment that Tristan Campbell lands in Heathrow and visits the offices of Twyning & Hooper, an old firm of London solicitors, he gets the tone absolutely right. Observant but not goggle-eyed, Tristan deals calmly with what he discovers, without novelistic detours for tourism. The money has been left by Ashley Walsingham, a young officer in the First World War who later died on an Everest attempt in the twenties, to a woman named Imogen Soames-Andersson. It appears that they fell in love shortly before Ashley was posted to France, but Imogen had disappeared by the time of his death. It is possible that Imogen and Ashley were Tristan's great-grandparents; it is up to him to prove it before the limitation runs out on the trust in two months' time.

It is an artificial premise, to be sure, but Justin Go handles it with aplomb, jumping back and forth over the hundred-year gap without putting a foot wrong. He has the effective idea of interleaving Tristan's search with chapters telling the story of Imogen and Ashley directly, and I found myself unable to put the book down, because no sooner had I learned something in one period than I wanted to follow it up with the other. And an absorbing love story it is, although there were times when I just wanted to shake some sense into the young people for some stubborn decisions that would affect the rest of their lives. There is a romance of sorts in the wings for Tristan too, but it is much less gripping than that of his maybe-ancestors.

That weakness is one reason why I can give the book four-point-something stars, but don't feel I can round it up. Also, as the book goes on, there is a kind of neatness to the way Tristan always manages to come up with something; surely an undergraduate history degree is not enough to make him quite so darned good at this? There are actually places when Tristan asks himself the same questions, but they are never really answered. And while I salute Justin Go for avoiding an over-neat ending, he left too much in the air to satisfy me. But it was a great trip while it lasted, and I would gladly pass the book on to others.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
We start off in 2004, when we meet newly-minted college graduate Tristan Campbell, who receives a letter from a London firm of solicitors, telling him that he may be heir to the long-unclaimed fortune of Ashley Walsingham--if only Tristan can prove his blood relationship, and soon. The second story thread is Ashley's; his meeting and crash-bang falling in love with Imogen Soames-Andersson just days before he is to report for combat duty in the trenches of World War I France, and his attempt to climb Mount Everest in 1924.

With only two months before Walsingham's fortune will be defaulted to charitable beneficiaries, Tristan searches desperately through archives, abandoned homes, museums and other sites in London, France, Sweden, Germany and Iceland to find evidence that he is related to Imogen, Walsingham's named beneficiary. Tristan picks up a companion along the way named Mireille, and the quest for a fortune fades in importance as he becomes almost obsessed with finding out the history of Imogen and Ashley.

The strongest part of the book is its descriptions of Ashley Walsingham's arduous experiences in the trenches and then while attempting Everest. Justin Go excels at making the reader feel the cold, wet, stink, repulsion, paralyzing fear and, ultimately, numbness that the front-line soldier experienced. Then he takes our breath away on the bleak, frozen mountain, with winds roaring and the visible world reduced to nothing.

All that atmosphere evaporates when the story switches back to Tristan. I've enjoyed quite a few of those biblio/archival detective stories (like Michael Gruber's The Book of Air and Shadows, for example) over the years, so I was particularly interested in reading about Tristan's under-the-gun documentary search all over Europe. It followed some of the standard formula, like picking up a companion along the way to add some romance, but it lacked drama and emotion.

It was hard to get much of a feel for Tristan and his companion, Mireille. They seemed like pale imitations of Ashley and Imogen. The quest itself was lacking for several reasons. Right off the bat, the restrictions that the solicitors put on Tristan seemed dubious. Tristan's searches were haphazard, and dumb luck and happenstance led him to most of his finds.

If your primary interest in the book is because you like literary detective stories, I think you'll find this one may leave you flat. But if you are attracted more by a World War I and Everest adventure/romance novel, then this should be worth your while.
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VINE VOICEon January 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It's the late 19990s and Tristan Campbell has just finished up his university degree in art and history. Returning home to his shared apartment, Tristan finds an old-style, fine stationary letter from Twyning & Hooper, Solicitors, London asking him to give them a call at his earliest convenience. Intrigued, Tristan walks to the nearest pay phone and calls them collect. Seems the firm is executor to a rather extraordinary trust set up in 1916 whose assets have yet to be fully distributed. After verifying some personal data, the solicitor on the other end of the phone asks him to fly to London on their dollar and meet with them in person.

Being at loose ends, Tristan agrees if no other reason than to see one of the cultural hubs he has long studied. However, after meeting with the senior solicitor of the firm, he's presented with a mystery and a challenge. Can he prove his direct descent from the originator of the trust, Ashley Walshingham, a British officer during WWI and mountaineer who lost his life on the slopes of Everest in 1924 in a failed attempt to reach the summit? The terms of the trust specify that Tristan nor the solicitors can hire anyone to do the work nor tell anyone why they are investigating someone long gone. And oh, yes you only have two months to unearth conclusive evidence before the trust is dissolved and dispersed to local churches and charities.

Before he leaves, Tristan is shown one surviving document that the solicitors have in their possession that would suggest his great grandmother was not his great grandmother but his great great aunt instead. And with that Tristan is off to comb the libraries, museums and art galleries of Europe and eventually Iceland in search of letters, documents and sketches of the great grandmother and aunt, one of whom was a minor painter.

Alternating with Tristan's tale is that of Walshingham's as he treks the Welsh mountains with a university friend, leaves Cambridge to enlist in the Army and is engaged in some of World War I's deadliest battles including the Somme. His chance encounter with a pair of sisters at a lecture about the possibility of ascending Everest just 6 days before his deployment to the front is the catalyst for the whole tale.

This is a rich sweeping tale of love and growth, from a headstrong teenager losing her illusions but not her love, to the horrors and grinding will to survive in the trenches and sucking muck of the French and Belgium front lines of World War I for Ashley and his fellow soldiers. The numbing, blinding cold of Everest without the wonders of Polarfleece, GPS and modern climbing tools is graphically portrayed and you will never take the sacrifice and sheer hard work of those early explorers for granted again. This story sucks you and forces you to the proverbial "one more chapter before you turn out the lights at night. " Buy it and share it, you won't regret the time spent with Ashley or Tristan. Bravo!
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on May 26, 2014
I just finished reading this book, and completely agree with the reviews that found the various stands didn't cohere into one perfect whole. I did like the concept. The "missing heir" hook got me into the book, but it turned out to be the weaker of the plot strands, and in some ways almost a weighty distraction. Tristan is an irritating twerp who's a cipher right through to the end.

I daresay the early 20th century story could almost have stood on its own, with some bolstering (although it vaguely reminded me of the major themes from John Fowles "the French Lieutenants' Woman" oh those many years ago.) Its also here that Justin Go's writing is quite brilliant; to my eyes his "voice" for these sections has that sepia-toned flavor that reminds you of those old photographs of men in the trenches and on mountain-climbing expeditions from days of yore. In these sections, the writing is really good (although the brilliance isn't matched for the contemporary portions.)

Okay, so now, onto the ending. No ending will satisfy everyone, but this one is particularly lacking for the investment asked of readers. Up against a publisher's deadline, were we? But, those of you who feel he same way, have no fear. If Hollywood ever gets hold of this story, I'm sure that'll change.

I'll keep an eye on Justin Go in future. There's real good stuff here, just not enough of it.
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VINE VOICEon April 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This debut novel leaves me with rather mixed emotions as I close the back cover. The premise provides a strong initial hook - a young California man receives a call from a London law firm that relays to him that he may be eligible to inherit a vast fortune, but only if he can prove that his grandmother’s parentage is other than what the legal documents show. In alternating chapters, the modern search coincides with the love story of a young shipping magnate heir and mountain climber, Ashley, and his rather unconventional lover, Imogen. The pair spend one fateful week together before Ashley joins the front lines in France during World War I. He dies in 1924 atop Mount Everest, leaving his fortune behind in a legally ambiguous will to Imogen - or her descendants.

As Tristan pieces together these lives and their romance, he travels across Europe to provide the proof he needs to inherit the fortune. He has incredible luck finding vestiges of their lives - letters, and other memorabilia of their lives. With the various locales - England, Sweden, France, Germany, Iceland - the modern and historical changes in setting add to the excitement. The book - and both plotlines - moves along at a fairly fast pace for such a bulky book. The research adds authenticity to both timelines and settings.

But, I must admit, the romance (in both the modern and historical periods) never feels as convincing. The characters and their motivations seem oddly shrouded in mystery (particularly the actions and reactions of the female characters) which makes it difficult to truly connect with any of them. And while I do like some aspects of the ending, this is a bit too open-ended for my tastes. It just ends so abruptly - which is surprising considering the page count getting to this rather flimsy conclusion. This does spoil the novel a bit for me, and despite its impressive research, the ending leaves me dissatisfied.
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on May 29, 2014
I could not put this book down. I felt it was beautifully written with an absolutely engaging story. And then this morning as I sat with my cup of coffee to savor the final pages of the book, I could not believe what I was reading! The ending is one of those "trendy" endings where there is no clear ending. I guess as the reader you are to imagine what the ending means. I frantically went on line to find anyone that could explain the ending to me. Did I miss something? Reading on my kindle made it difficult to look back on the pages to search for any clue that I might have missed. I guess I prefer books that have a clear satisfying ending. Therefore, I cannot recommend this book which makes me so sad as I did enjoy reading it ever so much.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon April 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I loved, loved, loved reading this book. I thought the characters were wonderful, unique, well-developed, and captivating--especially Ashley and Imogen. And the book is just so well-written. I especially enjoyed reading about Ashley's experiences in the War and on Mt. Everest. Even though there is so much going on in the story, I never felt bored or overwhelmed. There was just the right amount of detail and description, and I was excited to keep turning all 460+ pages.

My only complaint is the ending! Honestly, I took one whole star off of my rating because it fell so short for me. I usually hate it when authors spell EVERYthing out for the reader, but I felt that Go was way too vague. I am still not quite sure I understand how everything wrapped up, even though I went back and reread the last thirty pages or so. I would have appreciated a little more clarity.

Moreover, I was also disappointed with Go for ending the book by (SPOILER ALERT) hinting that Tristan and Mirielle were going to start their love story where Ashley and Imogen's had ended. That felt very forced to me, especially since I did not feel as connected to Tristan as I did to Ashley or Imogen--and I certainly didn't feel much of anything for Mirielle. I really didn't care if Tristan found love on his journey or not; all I really wanted to know was if he was related to Imogen and if he was going to get the money.

Regardless of my disappointment with the book's ending, I still loved the story and the characters overall, and I would definitely recommend giving this one a read.
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on May 2, 2014
There's a lot to like about this novel, but it could have been REALLY great. It's a story that is part love story, part adventure story, part quest.

Unfortunately, the story at times pushes the boundaries of logic. When Tristan (a recent college graduate living in San Francisco) is summoned by a London law firm, before he really knows what is going on....he drops everything and is off to London. The story they tell of the possibility that he might be the heir in a very complicated trust that was set up many years ago. When they challenge him to try to prove his relationship, he takes the only $1800 he has and takes off England, France, Germany, Sweden, Iceland, etc.

Oh....and there is only about two months left to the deadline of the trust.

I kept thinking that while he doesn't really have any idea whether he IS the heir, he dropped his whole life to search.

It seemed to me that parts of the search were really far fetched and came together too easily.

I won't give away whether he is successful...but his life is changed forever.

One of my biggest complaints about this novel is that the author does not use quotation marks! When did incorrect punctuation become OK?? It was OFTEN nearly impossible to tell who was speaking when there was a whole page of dialogue with only a dash before each line. At one point I even went back to the stop of the page and started with the first line (where I could tell who was speaking) and went down the page keeping track of "his line, her line, his line, her line, etc." This really took away from the story and was frustrating.

In the future, I'll take advantage of Amazon's feature of being able to see a few pages of a book. If the author does not use quotation marks, I'll pass.
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on April 26, 2014
This book was so disappointing. The story of Ashley and Imogene was interesting throughout the whole book and then when it comes time to conclude the story, the author wimps out and does not provide a conclusion. The reader is left wondering what happened as well as why he spent all this time reading the book to get to this. The story of Tristan and Mirelle is weak at best. It is totally random and I can't figure out why I should care about either character. I also cannot figure out why the author started mixing real people from the 1924 Everest expedition with his fictional characters...What was that? The author clearly has potential as a writer but his editor should have taken him aside and talked about how to conclude a story... I won't be reading any more of his books.
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