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The Day The Falls Stood Still Paperback – Aug 24 2010
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Since I lived in Niagara Falls for at one time I enjoyed the description of the Falls and liked the storyPublished 4 months ago by DOROTHY CARMICHAEL
An interesting read; especially if you are familiar with the Niagara Falls area.Published 4 months ago by Steph
Very well writen and wonderful historic story. Same name of streets and power plant still in the Falls.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Great historical fiction on Niagara Falls ... really interesting (especially to me as I am living there every other weekend it seems!)Published 15 months ago by JanetPLondon
Enjoyed the story. Well written to capture some history with a narrative plotPublished 16 months ago by Amazon Customer
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 morePublished on March 16 2014 by Donna Coleman Richardson