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The Day The Falls Stood Still [Paperback]

Cathy Marie Buchanan
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 17 2009
Steeped in the intriguing history of Niagara Falls, this is an epic love story as rich, spellbinding and majestic as the falls themselves.

1915. The dawn of the hydroelectric power era in Niagara Falls. Seventeen-year-old Bess Heath has led a sheltered existence as the youngest daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company. After graduation day at her boarding school, she is impatient to return to her picturesque family home near the falls. But when she arrives, nothing is as she left it. Her father has lost his job at the power company, her mother is reduced to taking in sewing from the society ladies she once entertained, and Isabel, Bess’s vivacious older sister, is a shadow of her former self. She has shut herself in her bedroom, barely eating and harboring a secret.

The night of her return, Bess meets Tom Cole by chance on a trolley platform, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to him against her family’s strong objections. He is not from their world. Rough-hewn and fearless, he lives off what the river provides and has an uncanny ability to predict the whims of the falls. His daring river rescues render him a local hero and cast him as a threat to the power companies that seek to harness the falls for themselves. As the couple’s lives become more fully entwined, Bess is forced to make a painful choice between what she wants and what is best for her family and her future.

Set against the tumultuous backdrop of Niagara Falls, at a time when daredevils shot the river rapids in barrels and great industrial fortunes were made and lost as quickly as lives disappeared, The Day the Falls Stood Still is an intoxicating debut novel.

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Product Description

Quill & Quire

Cathy Marie Buchanan’s first novel has the wistful tone of a love letter, addressed to a place few people alive today ever knew: Niagara Falls in the years before it became a tacky tourist destination, when it was still the domain of rivermen, daredevils, and lovers. The story begins in 1915, as 17-year-old Bess Heath’s life of privilege is thrown into disarray. After her father loses his job at the Niagara Power Company, Bess returns home to discover him ensconced at the local hotel bar. She also finds her heartbroken sister and her mother, who is scrabbling together an income as a dressmaker. The family’s hope is restored when a wealthy suitor proposes to Bess. But when a mysterious stranger captures Bess’s heart and the falls claim the life of her sister, love and grief make the marriage of convenience impossible. At the centre of the tale is Bess’s battle for faith and hope in a world that God seems to have abandoned – a world in which the First World War immerses young men in unfathomable horror and landscapes like Niagara Falls are ravaged in the service of boundless progress. Buchanan brings the era to vivid life, and specifics of Bess’s sewing and cooking give the story a gorgeous tactility. Although rich in detail, the story is also overwrought and melodramatic, and written in a simple, episodic style that fails to fully mine its emotional content. Buchanan’s characters suffer spiritual angst, fight in wars, and grieve for tragic losses, yet rarely do they display a complexity equal to that of their storylines. Nevertheless, this first novel abounds in romance and charm. Buchanan, a Niagara Falls native, was raised on the region’s lore, and she conveys its beauty and terror with deep understanding. Local legends pervade the story, lending it a nostalgic, otherworldly quality. Bess’s great love, Tom Cole, is styled after real-life riverman Red Hill, a hero of the falls with the uncanny ability to predict the ways of the water. Like a stuntman at the edge of the falls, this book can’t resist a dramatic plunge: it’s overly theatrical, certainly, but also entertaining.


?What a wordsmith! What a work of depth and breadth! What a world newcomer Cathy Marie Buchanan brings to propulsively glittering and gorgeous life in The Day the Falls Stood Still. Few first novels exhibit the mastery, maturity and majesty of Buchanan?s riveting fictional debut, a heart-wrenching, soul-racking, spell-binding tale interwoven with guts, anguish and glory guaranteed to remain in readers? minds long after they?ve crossed its devastating finish line.?
-- The Globe and Mail ()

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Aug. 28 2009
By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
I'll start off by admitting I may be a little biased. There is something captivating about reading a book when you recognize the street names, know the buildings mentioned, have been to the natural landmarks and live a block away from the church the family attended. But when I also find myself reading a brilliant epic love story I think my insider knowledge is more of a bonus than a bias.

Bess and Tom come from different classes. Bess is the 17yo daughter of an influential man at Niagara Power and lives in Glenview Mansion. She attends a Catholic Girls Academy (even though the family isn't Catholic) and leads a sheltered life. Tom is about 22 and is the local riverman. He catches fish for pay, pulls dead bodies out of the river, works a few nights in the saloon he has a room over and is always on hand when help is needed down at the river. When these two meet each other it is love at first sight but many things stand in their way including themselves.

While the beautiful love story is the main plot there are many other themes running through the book. The plight of women during this period is masterfully woven into the story with unwed pregnancy, suicide, women working during the war, and women being given the vote during WWI if they had a husband or son overseas. The effect the war had on the women as they stayed home and wondered if their husbands would ever come home and the plight of the men who did come home who were wounded beyond repair and others who had unseen wounds, those of the mind that don't heal so easily.

It is also a story of the environment as the whole history of the harnessing of the power of the Falls for electricity takes place during this time period.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read With a Fabulous Setting May 29 2012
By Clio33
I loved this book from the start. The characters are dynamic and sympathetic, and the setting is fabulous and so well described. I don't normally enjoy novels where the author spends much time on the setting, but in this book the setting is itself a primary character. It also had a strong element of history, but it was interwoven with the story beautifully. I've never been to Niagara Falls, but after reading this want to visit in person at my next opportunity!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome Feb. 12 2011
By Heather Pearson TOP 500 REVIEWER
Every year millions of people visit Niagara Falls. It continues to be one of the top tourist destinations. If you've ever been there, you understand why. To stand at the brink of the Falls watching more than six million cubic feet cascade over the edge every minute is mine boggling. It is not a sight you will soon forget.

Author Cathy Buchanan has truly captured the majesty and excitement of the area in her novel The Day the Falls Stood Still.

The story is set in the time of World War 1 and the years afterward. Young Bess Heath has one year of school at Loretto Academy left, when her mother removes her from the school.

Her father had been working for the hydro company and has recently lost his job. Her sister's engagement has been broken. The whole family is trying to find themselves again. Into all this turmoil, add a young man that Bess has spied in the area.

I was transfixed by this book. I suppose it had to do with having grown up only fifteen minutes away from the falls. It was a common occurrence at my house to jump in the car to go and see the 'lights' at night, to go and see if the ice bridge had closed across the river below the fall. to visit for any reason.

I have watched a fair number of shows about Niagara Falls as well as stories that have been set in the town, and this book ranks at the top with the best of them. Most definitely this is the book to read if you want to get a true feeling of what the area must have been like prior to it becoming a huge tourist mecca.

The character of Tom Cole is loosely based on true life river man Red Hill. Additional information about Red Hill and the events and rescues he was involved in.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting Historical Portrait Jan. 31 2011
By Samantha TOP 500 REVIEWER
I loved the book from the opening page. This is no mere heady romance but the compelling story of a girl growing into a a woman, the man she loves and the life they eke out--set in Niagara Falls in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century. It is a finely wrought period piece as well a monument to the Niagara area. I learned a great deal about the falls (which is one of my favourite getaway destinations) and greatly enjoyed the journey. Excellent characterization, sense of place and original plot line.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book! Feb. 14 2010
I take issue with most of Schmadrian's critical comments. I found the characters in The Day the Falls Stood Still to be real and the point of view effective. The historical aspect was written into the novel in a smooth and natural manner. The politics of the time, the geography, the love story - all worked together to make a book that captured my interest immediately and held it from beginning to end.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read! Sept. 7 2009
By Anne
Simply put: I loved this book. I smiled, I cried, I didn't want it to end. Not since reading Margaret Atwood's ALIAS GRACE have I felt so emotionally connected to the setting,characters and story. THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL is one of those rare literary finds that you simply cannot put down. I highly recommend this book to historical fiction buffs or anyone who simply wants a fabulous read.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good canadian author, enjoyed it
Published 1 month ago by Willa
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Was really easy to picture the falls
Published 3 months ago by Shelley Kerr
4.0 out of 5 stars The Power Behind the Falls
This book was easy to read and held my attention throughout. It was informative in its history and made me realize how necessary it is to preserve our natural wonders. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Donna Coleman Richardson
AGAIN READING... Read more
Published 8 months ago by monique rouleau
4.0 out of 5 stars Force of Nature Writing
Young Bess Heath, protagonist of Cathy Marie Buchanan’s remarkable novel “The Day the Falls Stood Still” abruptly emerges from a childhood of easy wealth to glimpse her life on the... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Charlene Diane Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning
The Day the Falls Stood Still is a hypnotizing read with depth and detail that astounds. Bubbling with an understated emotion, this delightful debut delves into love, family, duty... Read more
Published on Dec 21 2011 by Lydia - Novel Escapes
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the Read
I purchased this book after spending an evening listening to the author. The length of time writing and researching books is very extensive, and this author should receive high... Read more
Published on April 2 2011 by Just my thoughts
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Like others, I felt that this book started out strong and then fizzled. I just didn't care about the characters the way I think I was supposed to. Read more
Published on Oct. 14 2010 by stephaniebrown
5.0 out of 5 stars The Day the Falls Stood Still
This book is a gentle page-turner. One comes to care about the characters, and to become a part of their lives &community. Read more
Published on March 23 2010 by Nancy Soroka
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful New Canadian Writer!
This is by far one of the best books I have read this year. This is the debut novel of Cathy Buchanan and it is a very well written debut! Read more
Published on March 11 2010 by Shirley Rempel
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