Monday, November 22, 2010

Review: The Day the Falls Stood Still

Author: Cathy Marie Buchanan
Format: Voice (2009), Hardcover, 320 pages; also in audio - 11.5 hours
Narrator: Karen White
Characters: Bess Heath, Isabel Heath, Tom Cole
Subject: Niagara Falls, hydroelectric power, dressmaking
Setting: Ontario Canada
Genre: historical fiction
Source:print- review copy from the publisher; audio - public library download

I'm almost ashamed at how long it has taken me to get to this well-written, exciting and educational book.  The author, who grew up in the town depicted in the book- the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, has done her research, and gives us a work of historical fiction in which she takes real characters, re-names them, and then gives us a beautiful love story woven into historical narrative about the early harnessing of the power of the Falls for hydroelectric power.

The main character Bess Heath, had a very privileged upbringing but finds herself deprived of many creature comforts when her father is fired from his job, the servants are let go, she is unable to continue to attend her private girls; boarding school, and her mother is forced to take in sewing to support them.

Set during World War I, with flashbacks to earlier headlines from the Falls (late 1800's) Buchanan  gives us fully fleshed out characters who endure the hardships of separation, suicide, unemployment, and class discrimination.  Married on her 18th birthday against the wishes of her parents, Bess watches as her husband Tom Cole goes off to fight the Great War.  He is gone for more than three years, and returns to meet the son who would follow his father as  "the river man", amid a post-war economy with few available jobs.  This could have become a trite 'love at first site' story but instead we get a powerful tale of young love, early environmental concerns, some interesting sidebars on dressmaking and historically based episodes of the life of the river men. 

In addition to a great story the book is illustrated with actual photographs of the period.  For a reader who has not been to the Falls, the pictures are a great addition to understanding the story.  A first-rate read.


  1. Sounds great.
    I see I can get it here in the UK from a well known online book store :)

    I recently read The Opposite of Falling which visits the Falls.
    Would be interesting to read more about the area.


  2. "Niagara Falls, hydroelectric power, dressmaking"...what an interesting combination of subjects.
    Yes, one of those books I read a lot about awhile ago, but never read either.

  3. I really liked this story a lot as well Tina. Great review.

  4. I read this a while ago and enjoyed it too! I also liked the "news" articles and photos she used in the book.

  5. Thanks for the review. Really glad you got to my book!


  6. Cathy Marie...thanks so much for stopping by. I really enjoyed the book, and hope to hear that you've written more.


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