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The Day the Falls Stood Still

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Tom Cole, the grandson of a legendary local hero, has inherited an uncanny knack for reading the Niagara River's whims and performing daring feats of rescue at the mighty falls. And like the tumultuous meeting of the cataract's waters with the rocks below, a chance encounter between Tom and 17-year-old Bess Heath has an explosive effect. When they first meet on a trolley platform, Bess immediately recognizes the chemistry between them, and the feeling is mutual.

But the hopes of young love are constrained by the 1915 conventions of Niagara Falls, Ontario. Tom's working-class pedigree doesn't suit Bess's family, despite their recent fall from grace. Sacked from his position at a hydroelectric power company, Bess's father has taken to drink, forcing her mother to take in sewing for the society women who were once her peers. Bess pitches in as she pines for Tom, but at her young age, she's unable to fully realize how drastically her world is about to change.

Set against the resounding backdrop of the falls, Cathy Marie Buchanan's carefully researched, capaciously imagined debut novel entwines the romantic trials of a young couple with the historical drama of the exploitation of the river's natural resources. The current of the river, like that of the human heart, is under threat: "Sometimes it seems like the river is being made into this measly thing," says Tom, bemoaning the shortsighted schemes of the power companies. "The river's been bound up with cables and concrete and steel, like a turkey at Christmastime."

Skillfully portraying individuals, families, a community, and an environment imperiled by progress and the devastations of the Great War, The Day the Falls Stood Still beautifully evokes the wild wonder of its setting, a wonder that always overcomes any attempt to tame it. But at the same time, Buchanan's tale never loses hold of the gripping emotions of Tom and Bess's intimate drama. The result is a transporting novel that captures both the majesty of nature and the mystery of love.

Also, download the free study guide: http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/t....

307 pages, Hardcover

First published August 25, 2009

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About the author

Cathy Marie Buchanan

4 books678 followers
New York Times bestseller and book club favourite Cathy Marie Buchanan is the author of three novels.

Her most recent, Daughter of Black Lake, was chosen as a Best Fiction for Fall by Entertainment Weekly and Parade magazine. Her previous novel, The Painted Girls, was a New York Times bestseller, a #1 national bestseller in Canada, and was named a best book of the year by NPR, Good Housekeeping and Goodreads. Her debut novel, The Day the Falls Stood Still, was a New York Times bestseller, a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection and a Canada Reads Top 40 Essential Canadian Novels of the Decade. Her work has been translated into nine languages. Buchanan holds a BSc (Honours Biochemistry) and an MBA from Western University, and recently became a certified yoga instructor. She lives in Toronto.

Connect with Cathy Marie on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/cathymariebuc...) or Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/cathymbucha...).

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 946 reviews
Profile Image for Cathy Marie Buchanan.
Author 4 books678 followers
June 10, 2009
This is my debut novel. Hope you love it. On the shelves September 2009 in Canda and the US and February 2010 in the UK and Italy.

What's is about? Read on.

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 Niagara 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, her vivacious older sister, is a shadow of her former self. She has shut herself in her bedroom, barely eating—and harbouring 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 power of the falls for themselves. As their 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.
Profile Image for Cathrine ☯️ .
618 reviews338 followers
July 25, 2015
A love story centered around the early 1900s when men in power were determined to harness the power of the mighty Niagara with hydroelectric power plants. Tom Cole has loved the river his entire life but also loves Bess. A love which will lead him to compromise his personal beliefs and convictions because the only way he can support his family is by working for the company that is against everything he believes in. Bess is also divided in her heart over her need for financial security versus the need to support and believe in what makes her husband the man he is. The choices and sacrifices they make will have profound consequences. The well researched and supported history is a relevant and interesting storyline in light of these current times when movements are starting up all over the United States to remove dams that seemed like a good idea at the time but exacted great losses to our natural scenic treasures and wildlife. It’s told from the Canadian viewpoint and brought to mind John Muir’s heartbreaking battle to save the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite. I can't help but include one of his quotes. Overall a touching, educational, and satisfying read.

"It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods — trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries ... God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools.” John Muir
Profile Image for Mmars.
525 reviews97 followers
July 13, 2015
4.5 rounded up to 5.

One of the greatest pleasures of reading is to be unexpectedly wrapped up in a book. On the flip side there’s the disappointment of over-hyped books that do not deliver for the reader. There are many books I have not read for fear of such a reaction, and then there are these other books that come along less frequently. They make me suspend disbelief and wrap me up in another time, another life, another level of reality.

Such was my reading experience in this book. The characters were a bit too good to be true, it wasn’t chock full of quotable passages, and it doesn’t do anything particularly fresh. But it carried me away like the fast-flowing waters of the Niagara River.

I want to set the story up but give nothing away, so in brief, the story is set on the Canadian side of the falls from 1915-1923. The development of hydro-electric power provides much-needed jobs and the convenience of electricity, but also irrevocably changes the river, much to the dismay of Tom Cole, whose father has provided him with a sixth-sense type of knowledge of the river, the falls, the ice and all of its dangers. The narrator, Bess is from privileged society, her father providing well given his position in the hydro-power industry. But WWI comes along and changes industrial needs, makes his aluminum dreams for the company a near disaster and costs, him his job. His family’s financial situation become a shambles. The story hinges on Bess and Tom.

I feel I’ve done an injustice by not making the book sound more interesting or literary. But Buchanan is a more than capable writer, with just enough descriptive detail of place and daily life always given and just enough insightful thought revealed to make you wonder what action Bess will take. Just enough foreshadowing constantly compelled me on. But doggone it, to say much more would spoil the fun of reading it. I recommend it to readers who enjoy historical fiction with strong, female characters, tragedy and, of course, romance.
160 reviews13 followers
August 15, 2009
We live in an age where nearly all of our threats are human. Nature has no recourse against man-made factories, bridges, levees, and weapons. We are safe. We are secure. In the middle-north of the country, though, nestled between the United States and Canada is a reminder that we are human but only human. When I was a little kid I fell in love with Gordon Lightfoot’s Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. There is something helplessly beautiful and tragic about the power and majesty evoked by lore surrounding the Great Lakes basin.

While not as factual as Lightfoot’s recount, Cathy Marie Buchanan’s The Day the Falls Stood Still succeeds in capturing the breathtaking spirit of the rivers and lakes that contain the unshakable spirit in the heart of the north. What begins as a typical society girl’s junior year at a local prep school on the Canadian side of the falls, becomes a heart wrenching love story between man and woman but also between mankind and the river.

Set in the early to mid twentieth century, the story is told through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Bess Heath, the second and youngest daughter of a man who, prior to the beginning of the story, has been a social and financial success in the hydro-electric efforts in town. Immediately before Bess returns home for the summer, her father runs into a bit of trouble when a prediction fails to bring success to his fellow businessmen. He is let go from the industry and sets in motion a drama that rolls forward like a stack of dominoes. Caught in the inevitable social recourse of her parents’ plummeting social stature Bess and her sister Isabel are left to wonder what their glitzy upbringing has prepared them for and where to turn.

Amidst the downfall of the industrial elite, there is a softer voice. The voice of the river slips quietly through town, in the form of Thomas Cole, grandson of a famous river man who was more river than man, metaphysically and physically. In a melding of two worlds, Bess and Tom find their lives intertwined in ways that challenge both the unstoppable progress of the hydro era and the fading grandeur of the water that is their livelihood.

To say that this is a historical fiction romance is to completely miss the point. There is history, steeped in incredible drama, which found me at my computer in the wee hours of the morning, searching for more tidbits about the period. And, of course, there is the love story, both believable and magical. However, those two things are not the elements that drive this book. It is Buchanan’s complete dedication to inviting her readers to fall in love with the falls, to imagine themselves there, wading waist deep in the stories, the tragedy and the beauty.

The story reads a good deal like Steinbeck’s more detailed works in its straightforward prose but also carries the depth and honest crafting of characters that one would expect to find in East of Eden or Grapes of Wrath. Even though it’s a small book, it carries the epic weight of something much heavier. The Day the Falls Stood Still is an absolutely stunning debut and I am waiting at the edge of my seat to read more by Buchanan.
Profile Image for Heather .
571 reviews99 followers
November 18, 2020
I recieved this book as a review copy from the publicist. Started out very interesting, but I am putting it away halfway through. It was too depressing. A suicide, girl who's life is spiraling downward and sexual content I didn't want to read. The book has an overall sad tone though it is poetic.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kathrina.
508 reviews128 followers
August 27, 2009
Sorry, Goodreads author. This book struggles in many ways, and I'm not going to finish it. My biggest issue is the anachronistic dialogue. I'd like to read a book about the small but heroic efforts of women making it on their own in 1915, where cooking and sewing are the domestic skills that empower them, but it's not enough to keep this novel alive. Bess's attraction to Tom is trite and predictable, and the historical references feel like slaphazard inserts thrown in after the first draft was written. Bess doesn't take us anywhere new; nor does Buchanan's writing.
51 reviews
August 5, 2011
Good book with a wonderful and fascinating setting of Niagara Falls-on the Canadian side. The author carefully intertwines this setting into the story of a young woman, Bess, her family and husband Tom Cole-the"riverman" . The story takes place at a time when there are many changes to people's lives in terms of technology. The power of the river is being harnessed to "benefit" people's lives (for electricity) yet the Falls and the river still have the power to take away people's lives. It also takes place just at the onset and during the Great War-a time when many returned to unemployment but also were ravaged as men-they had seen the unspeakable and not many emerged unscathed. The power of the falls and the horror of war somehow connect in this story. I loved the way the author included photos of the Falls and the generator houses of the Hydro-electric plants. She obviously researched the history of the Falls but she also had a keen knowledge of Niagara and the surrounding area. You really felt you knew the lay of the river and surrounding area. All in all a good story with a great background. It makes me want to really see the Falls in person to admire the power, majesty and yet awesome danger of them.
Profile Image for Joanne.
580 reviews55 followers
February 8, 2021
This book is everything a great HF book should be. Beautiful writing, characters you want to hug and not let go of, and a story so captivating you don't want to put the book down.

The story begins in the early days of WWI, in Niagara Falls Canada. Bess is a 17 year old girl brought up in society, expected to do all the "right" things a girl of her station should do: marry the right man, become a mother and carry on. Tom is "the river man", a fisherman and the man who pulls the "floaters" from the river when called upon. No spoiler, to tell you they fall deeply in love.

If you know me at all, you know the romance genre (whether historical or any other embedded tag) is not my go to book. However, this book is so much more. The author was raised in Niagara, the story loosely built on a real-life river man and his family. Her research and knowledge of the area and time is what earned the 5 star rating.

If you like a great story, characters that grab you and take you away-Read this book-I loved it.
Profile Image for Robert Blumenthal.
814 reviews70 followers
February 5, 2017
This is the first novel by the author of the wonderful The Painted Girls, and it is a lovely one indeed. I seem to have developed a literary crush on Cathy Marie Buchanan, her novels really sit quite well with me. Though this novel is much quieter than her next one, it is the simple sort of tale that rivals such works as Brooklyn by Colm Toibin and Someone by Alice McDermott. This is not the novel for those that need lots of tension and foreshadowing. It flows like the Niagara River on which it is based, with a bit less turbulence. With the exception of a couple of river rescue scenes, there is not a whole lot of excitement in this tale.

It takes place from 1915 - 1923 on the Canadian side of the great falls, and I saw it basically as a sort of love story of this wonder of the world. Iris is enrolled in a private school. The summer of her 17th birthday, her world totally changes due to 2 significant events. One I will not divulge, the other being meeting Tom Cole, The book reveals their meeting and subsequent romance. This is not of the bodice ripping, overly dramatic kind, which I greatly appreciated. Though there is passion, the author chose a more practical approach to their relationship. She made it so real and so very much of the times.

Two very important themes that are dealt with here are the negative effects of establishing power companies on the strength and volume of the river that goes over the falls, and the questioning of the supposed unquestioning belief in God (what some call faith). People who are devout might have some problem with the development of the narrator on these terms--I found it extremely intelligent and grounded.

I became very involved in these characters and really appreciated the lack of melodrama here. There were many places where it could have occurred (a particular one with the relationship between the narrator and her best friend from school). This is an excellent first novel, and seeing how much I loved her second, I eagerly await her third.
Profile Image for Barb.
1,179 reviews129 followers
April 21, 2010
I love Niagara Falls, every time I visit I am completely awestruck. It is an amazing wonder to behold, it's literally breath taking. If you have never been I would urge you to go. I have seen much of the landscape the author describes in this book and I remember some of the folk lore from my many visits. My family and I saw Jay Cochrane walk a tightrope to the Skylon Tower in 2005. Niagara Falls has a magic and wonder that is hard to describe.

I really enjoyed this novel that incorporates so much of the history and folk lore of the Falls. I liked the literary references, the history of the falls and the conflict over harnessing their power.

Buchanan creates likeable and sympathetic characters in Tom Cole and Bess Heath. She paints a tender portrait of their courtship and a realistic one of their life together after they are married and Tom returns from World War I.

The story is compelling enough to make it a quick read and the writing is good enough to make it an easy one. There is a particular turn of events that seemed a little bit unlikely to me but I liked the story despite it.

I thought the commentary on fashion and the economy and how it impacted dress making was interesting as were the dress making details themselves. There are plenty of period details that take the reader back in time.

Overall an enjoyable and moving book that I would recommend.
And if you are looking for another historical fiction at the falls I recommend Lauren Belfer's 'City of Light' which I loved.
Profile Image for Tara Chevrestt.
Author 27 books293 followers
August 29, 2009
This is a magical, well told tale about a young woman named Bess, a riverman named Tom, and the history of the Niagara Falls. Bess meets Tom at the beginning of World War One when her family has fallen on hard times. They both reside on the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls in a town being overcome by hydroelectric power plants. Bess comes from a family that made its riches from the power plants, whereas Tom strongly believes in the beauty of the river and leaving nature untouched. This difference in opinion, however, does not deter their feelings for each other.

Partly due to her family's financial struggles, her father's loss of a job, but mostly her sister's suicide, Bess transforms from a gullible, naive girl to a strong, independent woman almost overnight and against her family's wishes, she marries Tom. After he serves his time in the war, they start a family and Tom faces difficult choices and must make decisions that go against his personal beliefs.

Tom loves the river, but the only jobs available are involved in the destruction of it and his beloved falls. What will come first in his priorities, his family or his ethics? In between the romance and Tom's amazing river rescues, readers get a detailed story about the Falls and the power plants that set out to destroy it. There are wonderful pictures, newspaper articles, and factual tidbits in between chapters. I found this particular touch very charming.

A wonderful story and very realistic. It is not all happiness and joy, but also frustrations and fears. A very surprising ending. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for KrisT.
150 reviews33 followers
September 1, 2009
Sometimes a book just wraps you up inside its covers and you don't recognize the regular world when you look up. That is what happened to me and this story. Bess Heath is a boarding school girl used to a better class of life but when her father is laid off from work they must all pitch in. Bess is 17 and a marriage to the right boy would help the family but the young river man holds her attention.
The characters are interesting and life-like in this story of love and death and progress versus nature. I really was touched by the authors in depth writing about loss and grief. Very good story.
Profile Image for Sharon Huether.
1,479 reviews10 followers
July 11, 2016
Bess Heath had led a sheltered life. All that changed after her father lost his job with the Niagara Power company.
By chance Bess meets a rugged young man, Tom Cole who impresses her. She throws caution to the wind when she marries Tom.
Tom has quite a reputation to live up to, that of his grandfather who rescued many from the Falls.
Tom does the same as his grandfather; but is lost in a whirlpool while trying to rescue a young boy.
His wife and two sons held him in their memory. He taught them to live off the river.
Profile Image for Marla.
449 reviews19 followers
September 28, 2009
I picked this book up because I had just been to Niagara Falls and thought it would be a neat connection. But I couldn't get past the first 100 pages (of a 300 page book). So I looked at some online reviews and everyone said it is really good in the beginning and gets slow in the middle, with a disappointing ending. Since I absolutely forced myself for the "good" 100 pages, I hung it up. "Too many books, so little time".
Profile Image for Ti.
789 reviews
September 8, 2009
The Short of It:

All of the elements are here...a sweeping love story, the struggle for acceptance, the challenges that family dynamics present...all amid the raging backdrop of the Niagara Falls. Lush and full of life. Fans of historical fiction will enjoy this one.

The Rest of It:

Every time I opened this book, I felt as if I were stepping off of the page, right into the Niagara. I could feel the mist upon my face, the powerful tug of the current and I could hear the roar of the water as it plunged over the falls. I love it when a novel can transport you to another time and place.

In addition to its glorious setting, this novel also deals with class struggle, the environmental impact of hydroelectric power upon the falls, and the effects of war. This novel is unique, well paced and well thought out. I appreciate the tenderness of the characters, and by that I mean that they are strong, yet vulnerable and I find that I can easily relate to them at different points of the story. Overall, a very enjoyable read.

To check out the full review, please visit my blog:

Book Chatter and Other Stuff
Profile Image for Cynthia.
633 reviews43 followers
September 5, 2009
This book had everything, a beautiful setting, a love story, cultures and classes clashing, occult overtones, but ultimately it was disappointing. I kept wondering what the author's point was. Sometimes, if the story is engrossing enough, meandering can be forgiven but Buchanan's writing showed seams badly and her characters went in and out of focus, sometimes feeling real then fading into caricatures. Rather than speaking their frustration, confusion, anger, etc. Buchanan repeatedly had them "open their hands, palms up".

The historical falls pictures were great and the cover art was lovely! Was this the publishers answer to increased Kindle use? If so it was cleverly done. The cover consists of a sepia toned conglomerate picture with the falls in the background and a lovely, turn of the century woman, her hand resting lightly on a superimposed rock. She has no feet so she seems to be floating. Blending with the sepia tones a rose gold disc with lacework vines seeping out on either side of it floats above the woman's head. There is a parallel between the the disparate parts of the cover art with the muddled together plot elements however the visual art works. The plot doesn't.
Profile Image for JenniferD.
1,006 reviews359 followers
July 28, 2015
10 july 2015 -- maybe 4.5 3.5-stars. what a wonderful, sensitive, evocative novel. i am leading a group read of this book during july, so will hold off on a longer review for now, until our discussions wrap up at the end of the month. but, i will say that i have been in a real run of so-so or 'meh' reads in 2015. to be so engrossed and captivated by a story was such a treat right now. the group chat for the novel has already added nicely to the read.

26 july 2015 -- lowered rating. as time has passed i have found myself thinking more about what was missing from the story for me, versus what i really enjoyed.
Profile Image for Nikki in Niagara.
3,874 reviews122 followers
October 3, 2009
Reason for Reading: The book takes place in Niagara Falls, Canada and that is where I live plus the historical time 1915-1923 is a favourite period I like to read about. I was excited to read a book set in my city and the cover is beautiful and actually blew me away when I saw it in real life.

Comments: 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. Sir Adam Beck, the government, the big business and everyone else it seems is so excited about more and more electricity at less cost that nobody seems to know what it is doing to the river itself, nobody but Tom that is, who knows the river like the back of his hand, and what he sees scares and saddens him. The characters all stand out wonderfully but it is Tom, a true hero, who captures your heart.

A riveting book. I could hardly put it down and read it very quickly. It is emotional; there is sadness. I almost cried at the end, with a lump in my throat, mad, for a moment, at this tragedy we call life. An astounding first novel! Ms. Buchanan is a talented writer with a future ahead of her. I will be interested to see where she goes with her next novel. Highly Recommended! This one is certainly going to make my top ten list this year.
Profile Image for Melissa Lee.
370 reviews36 followers
August 16, 2017
I’ve had the opportunity to visit Niagara Falls several times over the years, but I knew very little about its history, especially during the early days of hydro-electricity in Canada. I appreciated how the author fused the prominent issues of that time into the story. It explored the environmental and moral sacrifices these advances brought.

Buchanan crafted a fictional story that was inspired by the real life River Man William “Red” Hill and his heroic rescues. I enjoy when a historical fiction gives the reader a good image of how daily life was during a specific time period and I felt The Day the Falls Stood Still did just that.

It took me some time to really get into the story. It wasn’t until the end that I really understood what drew Bess and Tom together. However once I was hooked, I became very immersed in the plot. I also liked the old photographs that began each section.

I would recommend Cathy Marie Buchanan’s The Day the Falls Stood Still to historical fiction fans.
15 reviews6 followers
January 22, 2010
I must admit I purchased this book based on the cover which I thought looked fascinating. I was only a little bit disappointed. The "historical" part of the Falls was interesting and I enjoyed Bess' relationship with her sister, parents and Tom. However, I had a hard time following the more "technical" parts of the river: the eddys, currents, and the general setting of the river. I'm not familiar with the area (or big rivers in general), and some of that was just confusing to me.
[Set against the backdrop of WWI and Niagara Falls, this debut tells the story of young Bess Heath and her struggle to navigate a quickly modernizing world. A child of privilege, Bess sees her fortunes change when her father loses his job. Cast into poverty, her family disgraced, Bess tries to hold things together while her sister slips into depression, her father drinks and her mother withdraws. After another tragedy strikes, Bess finds comfort in the love of Tom Cole, a river man with a mysterious connection to the falls. Overcoming the deep privation of the war and their own limited means, the two begin building a life together and renew their commitment to each other and their family. Based loosely on the history of Niagara river man William Red Hill, the book incorporates mock newspaper articles with limited success, but does integrate some detailed depictions of domestic life and fascinating natural history into an otherwise uneventful romance.}
Profile Image for Bridget.
55 reviews
August 19, 2009
I am somewhat biased because I grew up near Niagara Falls, NY, but I would have loved this book even if I was from Atlanta. The book is set on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls from 1915 to 1925. The main character, Bess, endures many successes and tragedies from the age of 17 until she is 26, when the book ends. Her privileged life is abruptly taken away from her, and everyone, including Bess, is pleasantly surprised by her perseverance. While there are frequent references to sacrificing because of the war, the major setting is Niagara Falls, which is very much a character in this book. The book invoked many feelings about Niagara Falls: awe of its majesty, fear of its power, and respect of its economic and social impact.

This love story hits all the traditional major loves: love of your partner, parental love, and sibling love. Loss is also a major theme: the demise of loved ones, sacrifice for the war, loss of lifestyle.

The book is relatively action-packed, but I don’t want to spoil any part of it because all the events were incredible. I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Ruth Seeley.
249 reviews21 followers
November 7, 2012
Not sure why I hadn't realized this was a historical novel before embarking on it. Luckily the OD on historical novels that happened in 2011 has faded in my memory and I was able to enjoy it for a variety of reasons - the lush prose, the profundity of some of the observations (particularly those relating to cumulative grief and loss, of which there is a lot in this book - loss of hope, loss of life, loss of opportunity, financial loss, as well as loss of integrity which to some is merely compromise).

Bess Heath is a heroine in the truest sense of the word. Her comfortable existence is shattered at 17 when her father loses his job, her sister's fiance jilts her, and she meets a riverman named Tom Cole. Bess creates a new life for herself, lived on her own terms. It's neither easy nor predictable, but it's absolutely authentic. Great character study of those who swim against the tide.
Profile Image for Petra.
1,124 reviews12 followers
July 18, 2015
I enjoyed this book, which included a partial history of Niagara Falls at the time of electrical development. The falls are described in such detail and force that they are a character in the story.
I found, though, that the real people weren't as solid or powerful as the falls. There's so much woe, bad luck and depression in this story. It seems overdone because it is never-ending. Bess had hardship, yes, but also good times but even those are colored grey and sad....always with a cover of foreboding. Enjoy Life, Bess! I spent the time waiting for the big disaster to happen. It was so obvious with all the depression and woe that a disaster had to happen. A little bit of surprise and suspense would have been appreciated.
A good story but a depressing one throughout.
Profile Image for ♥ Marlene♥ .
1,687 reviews132 followers
November 17, 2013
Really loved all the information I got about Niagara Falls and that the story was set there. Beautiful but deadly settings. I did not love this book as I did The Painted Girls but I did enjoy the book. . I was not as invested in the main characters as I was in her other book but I still very much enjoyed it. I love Canadian authors do not ask me why but the ones I have read most of the time write great books as does Cathy Marie Buchanan.Sometimes I wondered what the point was but I guess the moral of this story is do not try to change someone in someone he/she is not just because of money.

Definitely going to read her next books. I've become a bit of a fan.

Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,138 followers
October 30, 2012
Really enjoyed this love story between heroic river man,Tom and Bess, daughter of the Director of the Niagara Power Company. This is a heart wrenching tale of their personal struggles of daily life beginning in 1915, and Tom's concern for the harm done to his beloved Niagara River for the sake of progress.

Historic newspaper documentation and photos add to the book's appeal.

I was hooked from the beginning, and if you have never visited Niagara Falls, it is indeed a magnificent sight to behold.

Profile Image for Suzze Tiernan.
613 reviews53 followers
June 22, 2009
Loved this book! Best book I have read so far this year. I really felt what it might have been like to live in Niagara Falls, Ontario in the very early 1900's. The characters were so real, I felt like I was right there alongside them, and the falls, as I read. If you like historical fiction, you must read this book. I plan on recommending this to all my friends!
Profile Image for Anne.
64 reviews
January 8, 2017
This is a must read for anyone who loves historical fiction, great character development. I smiled, I sobbed. I never wanted it to end. I haven't felt so emotionally connected to a book since reading Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace.
Profile Image for Wendy.
1,641 reviews557 followers
July 10, 2015
Although heartbreaking this story is very well-written. It will stay with me for a very long time.
Profile Image for Mallory.
804 reviews
January 24, 2018
Set in Canada during the WWI years, this story centers around Bess Heath and her family's life in Niagara Falls. Their privileged lives have taken a turn toward reduced circumstances, after Bess's father loses his job with the power company. Her mother now must sew and take dress orders to make a living; her sister Isabel's recently broken engagement has left a scar on the whole house. When Bess meets riverman Tom Cole, she begins to make decisions for herself, knowing the consequences will be difficult, but willing to bear them.

For the most part, this was a beautiful novel. Buchanan made the river and the falls a character itself with her writing. She captured the post-war struggles of men and women finding (or re-discovering) their places and roles in society and the home. However, I had a hard time with Bess and her antipathy toward God as the book goes on. Tragedies happen - therefore, there is no God. Her faith, what it was, was very shallow; it had no roots. She was often unlikeable. I understood Tom better. The other problem was that I had no idea about any of the history behind hydroelectric power at Niagara Falls and any of the controversies and issues surrounding its use. I was surprised that the author did not include any additional history or backstory in her note, only the inspiration for Tom Cole's character.

Favorite quotes: "Grief isn't something to get over. It stays with you, always, just not so raw." - Tom Cole
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