SHORT & SWEET REVIEW: THE STEADY RUNNING OF THE HOUR BY JUSTIN GO

Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet). Sometimes I have too many books to do a full-length review. At other times, like now, tennis elbow and a torn tendon makes too much writing difficult. As such, I’ve decided to devote longer reviews to Australian authors until such time as my injury clears. 

A sticker on the front cover says, ‘Read it, love it … or your money back”. I always find those claims a bit of a challenge because reading tastes vary so much. Did I love the book? Find out after the blurb:

The Steady Running of the Hour

Just after graduating college, Tristan Campbell receives a letter delivered by special courier to his apartment in San Francisco. It contains the phone number of a Mr J.F. Prichard of Twyning & Hooper, Solicitors, in London-and news that could change Tristan’s life forever. In 1924, Prichard explains, an English alpinist named Ashley Walsingham died attempting to summit Mt Everest, leaving his fortune to his former lover, Imogen Soames-Andersson. But the estate was never claimed. Information has recently surfaced suggesting Tristan may be the rightful heir, but unless he can find documented evidence, the fortune will be divided among charitable beneficiaries in less than two months. In a breathless race from London archives to Somme battlefields to the Eastfjords of Iceland, Tristan pieces together the story of a forbidden affair set against the tumult of the First World War and the pioneer British expeditions to Mt Everest. Following his instincts through a maze of frenzied research, Tristan soon becomes obsessed with the tragic lovers, and he crosses paths with a mysterious French girl named Mireille who suggests there is more to his quest than he realises. Tristan must prove that he is related to Imogen to inherit Ashley’s fortune-but the more he learns about the couple, the stranger his journey becomes.

Part love story, part historical, The Steady Running of the Hour follows Tristan as he pieces together the story of two tragic lovers he may (or may not) be a descendant of. Tristan takes on the mountainous job of chasing information across Europe, and his discoveries alternate with flashbacks into Ashley and Imogen’s lives. These flashbacks are particularly vivid, especially the war scenes, which are among the most emotive of the book. Some are harrowing. It’s a long, detailed and open-ended book, which will leave the reader with plenty of questions and challenge them to use their imagination; I’m not averse to using my imagination, but the ending didn’t really work for me. I love the concept, I love the historical aspects, and I adore the hat on the cover (big case of hat envy here), but overall, the complete package didn’t hit the mark for me. My verdict – not for everyone, especially those who want more action, less description – stick to this if you like historical fiction and love the challenge of an open ending. And, no, the book was courtesy of the publisher, so I won’t be getting my money back.

Available from good bookstores and Allen & Unwin (RRP $29.99). My copy was courtesy of Allen & Unwin.

Bookish treat: I went for the good old cup of tea with this one. It fit the very English, reserved feel.