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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. 16 2010

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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


“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

“The Day the Falls Stood Still is an extraordinarily assured first novel. . . . It is a southern Ontario Gothic of the highest order.” --National Post

“[The Day the Falls Stood Still] stands on its own elegant prose and the vibrant voice of its narrator.” --USA Today

“Buchanan combines storytelling with reportage of a legendary riverman creating a story as mesmerizing as staring at the river as it plunges over the falls.” --Publishers Weekly

"I grew up in this area and I know every whirlpool that is described. Buchanan is right-on in her description and the lore. She deals with the important themes of progress versus environment and also the class system in a period setting that is perfectly rendered. The main character, Tom Cole, is truly the Rhett Butler of the Cataract. He is a great Canadian hero. The romance is more mesmerizing than the whirlpools. Anyone who cannot read this book in one sitting has a heart colder than Niagara Falls in February." --Catherine Gildiner -- critically acclaimed author of the national bestseller Too Close to the Falls.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Dec 21 2011
By Lydia - Novel Escapes TOP 500 REVIEWER
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 and the choices that divide.

Although centered around a love story, many other themes swim beneath the surface of this novel including war time strife, economics, politics, theology, and environmental issues just to name a few and that doesn't even delve into the personal issues many characters in this novel face. They are all woven together in a rich tapestry and along with the delightful details of the era and Buchanan's elegant prose, it is not difficult to see why this novel was chosen as a finalist for Canada Reads 2010.

From the first sentence, I was immediately immersed into the story and the setting. The smallest details were the most powerful and I have such a vivid picture of every location in this novel, yet I never felt bogged down in detail. At times I wasn't even sure if what I was reading was fiction, which is a testament to how skillfully woven this tale is between fiction and the historical events that took place in Niagara Falls at that time.

I really enjoyed Bess's character. A strong female protagonist, she picks herself up and moves forward with each challenge that's thrown at her. She holds herself together for her family and never becomes whiny, needy or hard. She simply carries on. Bess supports her husband, stands by her decision to marry him when others question it, and even when she does herself on rare occasion. At no time did I ever question her love for Tom and it was such a wonderful love story to read, and with the other interwoven themes, this novel stood out for me as a complex story.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good canadian author, enjoyed it
Published 7 days ago by Willa
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Was really easy to picture the falls
Published 2 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 6 months ago by Donna Coleman Richardson
AGAIN READING... Read more
Published 7 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 13 months ago by Charlene D. Jones
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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