Publisher: Harper Collins
Received: Borrowed from my local libraryRelease Date: August 25, 2009
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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.
Earlier this year I got the chance to read Cathy Marie Buchanan's THE PAINTED GIRLS, I loved that it was a story set in Paris and about trying to become a dancer. I really loved her writing and when I found out that she had an earlier book that takes place in Niagara Falls (seriously it's like an hour away from me) I knew I was going to feature it for Canadian Historical Fiction month!
This is definitely a story that rivals many love stories out there for me. Cathy really shows how these two characters really fit with one another and I loved watching their relationship as they learn about one another slowly. Bess's family has fallen from their high position in society and she must leave school and help her family get by. I really loved Bess's character, she stood by her family and did everything she could to bring her sister back out of this depression she is in.
Tom's character intrigued me the most throughout my reading of THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL. It was interesting to see the connection he had with the falls and to really see someone be passionate about something as he is throughout the entire book. Tom puts so much energy into protecting the falls from running low and his passion comes across beautifully in this book.
This book is about more than just Tom and Bess though, I really felt like the falls themselves were a character in this story and that is what really spoke to me. Cathy's descriptions of Niagara falls were beautiful and really something I never thought about, and I loved the history behind it. Cathy goes deep into the ice bridge and how the weather changes affect things in town. Cathy also adds in newspaper clippings throughout the story, giving even more history to readers that goes further back than Tom and Bess themselves.
I'm so happy that I finally got to pick this up, being able to read a book about a place that I know so much about and have spent so many summers at is amazing, but I think this story has given me a new outlook on the falls. I think this is one of those perfect books for Canadian Historical Fiction!