The Steady Running of the Hour

In Justin Go's debut novel, contemporary 20-something Tristan Campbell must mine his ancestors' pasts for clues in an effort to prove he's the rightful heir to an enormous fortune, unclaimed in the years since it was left behind by World War I veteran and mountaineer Ashley Walsingham. Vacillating between the stories of both men, Go links the novel's multiple characters, countries and turns of events with a temporal thread, constructing a tale in which time is both poisonous and redemptive, taunting both men until they're forced to reckon with its passing.

The structure itself isn't necessarily innovative, but the execution separates Go from lesser writers who have tried (and sometimes failed) to juggle separate worlds in the singular framework of a novel. The fullness and vivacity of his characters make his transitions between past and present seamless. The pace is, unsurprisingly, breakneck, and the novel falls into that rare category of being both compulsively readable and haunting, its figures still insistently real long after you've left their fictional world.

The Steady Running of the Hour is knotty and complicated, both a brash historical epic and a quiet love story. It's ambitious, honest and unabashedly passionate about history, from the mud in the trenches at the Battle of the Somme to the remnants of the Berlin Wall. Almost overwhelming in its magnitude, this is a lovely meditation on how men and women meet the world's harsh demands and how they wrestle with their humanity in the process. --Linnie Greene, freelance writer and bookseller at Flyleaf Books

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