Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Day the Falls Stood Still

The Day the Falls Stood Still
by Cathy Marie Buchanan
A Hyperion book
copyright 2009

Once again when I got home from my Canadian vacation I had an ARC awaiting me in my stack of mail! What a treat to come home to! Even more of a treat because The Day the Falls Stood Still takes place during a time-span that fascinates me - WWI and just after.

My father told of how, when he was a child and his father was in bed with the Spanish flu, dad would listen on his home-made crystal radio for war news and move thumbtacks on a map of Europe so his father could keep track of what was transpiring. Dad was all of 8-10 years old at the time.

The Day the Falls Stood Still
takes place on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls beginning in 1915 when Bess Heath was a seventeen year old convent school girl. She was the youngest daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company. The advent and boom of hydro-electric power moves her story and the story of her family through the following years.

Bess meets and falls in love with Tom Çole, a riverman whose almost psychic connection with the Niagara has made him, as it did his grandfather, a legend in his own time. When events transpire that make him a threat to the power companies, Bess' and Tom's marriage is also threatened.

The story is very loosely based on an actual legendary Niagara riverman, William "Red" Hill. Throughout the book are actual photos taken of some of events mentioned and fictional newspaper clippings that put the reader right there, in the moment, of what is happening.

I've never visited Niagara Falls, but throughout reading this book I swear I could hear the rush of water in the background. Buchanan does a wonderful job of putting us there, in the moment. Bess is beautifully written. We see her grow from a silly, privileged school girl into a strong, passionate, self-sufficient woman.

My only quibble is that there is much use of flashback and it gets quite predictable fairly soon. And while it might be argued that this mirrors Bess'(and her culture's) feet originally stuck in the past and her eventual movement toward balance, it was still very annoying at times. Flashbacks for backstory always make me feel like the author went, "Whoops! I forgot to tell you this... " But aside from this, Buchanan tells a powerful and engrossing story.

I would definitely recommend The Day the Falls Stood Still to anyone interested in this time period, Niagara Falls, hydro-electric power, or just a plain good story.


Cathy Marie Buchanan said...

Hi Betty,

I do hope you get to go to Niagara falls some day and thanks for reviwing my debut.


Betty Lindholm Navta said...

Cathy ~
It's my pleasure!

I wish you all the best on Falls and on your future endeavors.

Thanks for dropping by!