Merrimon Book Reviews

Charles Dickens

Maid of the Mist,
Modern view

Frozen Horseshoe Falls from Canadian side.
ca. 1900

Woodcut of Niagara Falls

From Merrimon Book Reviews
The Day The Falls Stood Still
The Day The Falls Stood Still by Catherine Marie Buchanan
by Catherine Marie Buchanan

Excellent historical fiction

In THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL, Bess Heath narrates the story of her life from 1915-1923 against the backdrop of the Niagara Falls, the coming of the hydroelectric age and World War I.  Once the daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company, her father's firing and a family tragedy change Bess's life forever.  A chance encounter with riverman Tom Cole, grandson of the famous falls hero Fergus Cole, develops into a romance that sustains her in unexpected ways through the events of her life. 

Through her narrator Bess, Cathy Marie Buchanan documents the history of the Canadian Niagara region from the business deals and politics to the daredevils and tourists.  Thomas Cole's perchant for predicting the ways of the river and his daring rescues make him a local hero whereas his desire to preserve the Falls from the encroaching use of the hydroelectric companies put him at odds with the powerful forces in the community.  World War I looms in the background, influencing the daily lives of the characters as well as the more sweeping changes in the region.  Against this vivid historical backdrop, Cathy Marie Buchanan pens a powerful, moving story of Bess's relationships with her sister Isabel and with Tom Cole.  Although these two characters are absent from Bess's life at different periods of the novel, their presence fills Bess's life, bringing her closer to them, and transforming Bess herself.  

Both sad and uplifting in the face of tragedy at times, THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL combines fascinating regional history with a moving look into the very heart of the novel's characters.  Bess's emotional and spiritual journey throughout the story gives depth while the everyday details ground the story not only in the larger backdrop of history but also in her day to day life.  Real life period illustrations and fictional newspaper articles supplement Bess's narrative, sparking the reader's imagination and allowing one to easily enter into the region and the period.  THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL is a fine example of historical fiction indeed!

Publisher: Voice (August 2009)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
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