Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Conceptions of Time: The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go

Justin Go has written a novel in a style reminiscent of certain British writers who use an intelligent, reserved, and persistent narrator to give accurate and insightful observations of themselves other characters. This style allows the authors to focus on the objective but detached views of the narrators that are guided by their own intuitive sense of purpose and direction. The greatest example of this is Anthony Powell's Nicholas Jenkins in Complete Set: A Dance to the Music of Time: 1st Movement, 2nd Movement, 3rd Movement, 4th Movement, a wonderful multi-volume novel that follows the narrator in Great Britain from boyhood to middle age in the 20th Century. Readers come to know and love Nick because of his genuine interest in other characters, extensive education, successful career as a novelist, risky love affairs and enduring marriage, and his call to duty as an officer in WWII.

In Mr. Go's novel, Tristan Campbell's reserved personality, careful observations, persistent actions, and underlying introspection are revealed when he responds to a call from a solicitor in the London firm of Twining and Hooper. He is told that he may be in line for a large inheritance, part of an irrevocable trust that is about to lapse at the end of its 80 year term. Tristan has just graduated from college in the U. S. with no immediate plans in mind for beginning an occupation. He decides to accept an invitation by the solicitors to travel to London for an explanation of his role in the settling of the account that involved his deceased grandmother.

In London Tristan learns that a great amount of money and extensive private and business property may be his to claim because he is the sole heir of his grandmother's estate. The law firm's records reveal that Ashley Walsingham bequeathed enormous wealth to his lover Imogen Soames-Andersson who disappeared in the 1920's without claiming the assets. The British solicitors believe that Imogen was pregnant with Tristan's grandmother, but direct proof is needed. Pressure is added by "the steady running of the hour" because of the imminent suspension date for finding supporting evidence. For Tristan money and property are important, but he persists in his extensive search of minimal records against all odds because he is intrigued by the story of the lives and the love affair of Ashley and Imogen. He sets out to find the evidence that will earn him his inheritance, and, more importantly, will tell the real story of the two lovers now lost in time.

Tristan travels Europe chasing down bits of information about Ashley (war hero and mountain climber) and Imogen (pampered daughter from an economically comfortable family). In his research travels, a chance encounter in a Paris bar leads Tristan to the beginning of his own love affair with a young French woman Mireille. This is similar to the start of Ashley and Imogen's affair. The similarities between the love affairs of two couples increases as Tristan gathers information about his inheritance. He and Mireille face a dilemma similar to that of Ashley and Imogen. Should they perform their duty with honor and sacrifice in the steady running of the hour? Or will they seek the wildest beauty in the world by slipping time risking the "richlier" grief of Ashley and Imogen? Mr. Powell's Nicholas Jenkins stayed true to his course throughout life in the steady running of the hour. Read Mr. Go's novel to discover Tristan's resolution of a dilemma perhaps all thoughtful people must confront.

Although Justin Go does not reach the literary heights of Anthony Powell, his lengthy novel is enjoyable and I recommend it to readers as a good first novel by a talented writer.

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