Friday, May 9, 2014

The Steady Running of the Hour - Book Review

From the cover :

In 1924, the English mountaineer Ashley Walsingham dies attempting to summit Mount Everest, leaving his fortune to his former lover, Imogen Soames-Andersson—whom he has not seen in seven years. Ashley’s solicitors search in vain for Imogen, but the estate remains unclaimed. 

Nearly eighty years later, new information leads the same law firm to Tristan Campbell, a young American who could be the estate’s rightful heir. If Tristan can prove he is Imogen’s descendant, the inheritance will be his. But with only weeks before Ashley’s trust expires, Tristan must hurry to find the evidence he needs. 

From London archives to Somme battlefields to the Eastfjords of Iceland, Tristan races to piece together the story behind the unclaimed riches: a reckless love affair pursued only days before Ashley’s deployment to the Western Front; a desperate trench battle fought by soldiers whose hope is survival rather than victory; an expedition to the uncharted heights of the world’s tallest mountain. Following a trail of evidence that stretches to the far edge of Europe, Tristan becomes consumed by Ashley and Imogen’s story. But as he draws close to the truth, Tristan realizes he may be seeking something more than an unclaimed fortune. 

My thoughts :

I was about a third of the way into the novel when I happened to notice that the majority of the Goodreads reviews for The Steady Running of the Hour were two star reviews. I was surprised because I was already quite enraptured with the novel. I avoided reading their opinions but guessed that perhaps the book must have a disappointing ending. 

After finishing this absolutely mesmerizing and ambitious novel, I am still shocked by the poor reviews. The novel is sprawling. It's a long book and Go tends to add historical asides that don't seem to advance the plot. Personally, I found the tangents rather fascinating. I was especially engrossed in the stunning and savage descriptions of Ashley's experiences in the trenches during World War I and his attempt to climb Mount Everest. 

There are no overly passionate love scenes. The characters are bound more by emotional connections that are enduring and more powerful. The characters themselves are subdued and often subtle. Imogen is the most animated character in the novel, though she her demanding and impulsive behavior is frustrating. Her motivations are not entirely understood.

I loved this book. I actually loved the slow, sometimes plodding nature of the language. I loved the rich history and imagining the climbers' attempt at the mountain with their crude gear. I loved the characters. I loved the satisfying yet un-Hollywood-style conclusion. I loved Tristan's search for his ancestors and how he couldn't exactly explain how clues and information just happened to fall into place. It reminded me of how many people describe their personal search for family history. The discoveries are often random or coincidental. I loved the deep emotional ties the characters had with each other. 

The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go is definitely a book I won't soon forget. However, I won't recommend it to just anyone. It would obviously be unfair to the book. It deserves a reader willing to stretch and appreciate and be consumed.

The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go was published by Simon and Schuster and released in April 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Steady Running of the Hour in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. No additional compensation was received.**

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