Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan

5 Star

In 1915, with her eighteenth birthday looming, Bess Heath returns home from school to find her family's circumstances drastically changed with her father's recent unemployment. Bess works alongside her mother as a dressmaker struggling to support the family when she bumps into the mysterious Tom Cole who becomes a beacon of light in her dismal days. From a completely different class and world, living off the river and listening to it's whims, Bess becomes intrigued by the rough-hewn riverman. When her family objects, Bess finds herself having to make a choice between her family and the man she has fallen in love with.

Lydia - 5 Star

The Day the Falls Stood Still is a hypnotizing read with depth and detail that astounds. Bubbling with an understated emotion, this delightful debut delves into love, family, duty and the choices that divide.

Although centered around a love story, many other themes swim beneath the surface of this novel including war time strife, economics, politics, theology, and environmental issues just to name a few and that doesn't even delve into the personal issues many characters in this novel face. They are all woven together in a rich tapestry and along with the delightful details of the era and Buchanan's elegant prose, it is not difficult to see why this novel was chosen as a finalist for Canada Reads 2010.   

From the first sentence, I was immediately immersed into the story and the setting. The smallest details were the most powerful and I have such a vivid picture of every location in this novel, yet I never felt bogged down in detail. At times I wasn't even sure if what I was reading was fiction, which is a testament to how skillfully woven this tale is between fiction and the historical events that took place in Niagara Falls at that time.

I really enjoyed Bess's character. A strong female protagonist, she picks herself up and moves forward with each challenge that's thrown at her. She holds herself together for her family and never becomes whiny, needy or hard. She simply carries on. Bess supports her husband, stands by her decision to marry him when others question it, and even when she does herself on rare occasion. At no time did I ever question her love for Tom and it was such a wonderful love story to read, and with the other interwoven themes, this novel stood out for me as a complex story. 

Having been to Niagara Falls multiple times over the years, I've always had enjoyedd the falls, but this novel's portrayal of their beauty, majesty, power and force will have me viewing them differently next time I visit. I will also have much more of an appreciation for the environmental challenges surrounding the falls and how the tourist industry now overshadows them.

I don't often quote from novels, but thought this was lovely and poignant, and it was far from the first or last snippets of prose that I savoured:  "It seems a cruel trick that time contracts when you want to savor it and expands insatiably when you do not."

I am certain I will reread The Day the Falls Stood Still at some point and definitely look forward to reading more from Cathy Marie Buchanan.

Kathryn - 5 Star

Sitting down to write my review of this novel I realize that I enjoyed my history lesson and will never go to Niagara Falls with the same eyes again!  Though the story and characters are fictional there seems to be a little bit of truth and legend woven in to give us a great novel.
I found myself getting involved in the story of Bess and her family from the very first pages.  Bess is an incredibly strong and determined woman and I couldn’t put the book down. I did find that a lot of time was covered in the last half of the novel though and lost a little of my link to the characters.  Though I appreciate that there was a lot of story to cover in relation to the emerging hydroelectric power stations being built- the love story was lost for me because of this. I wish I had had a better grasp of Bess and Tom’s life before he had to leave for war as this might have grounded their love for each other during the second half for me. 
The story of Tom’s love for the river entirely took over the plot and although I felt I’d lost a bit of Bess during this period it does nothing to change the fact that the novel itself is passionate.  There is a great intensity felt throughout which is backed up by the fact that I could visualize the intensity of the actual water of the falls and I felt I could hear the rumble of the water falling.  Tom had been raised to almost worship the river and it’s almost impossible to imagine any other outcome.
Thank you to Harper Collins for providing the review copy. All opinions are our own.

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  1. Great review. I loved this book. The sentence you picked out is one of my favorites. I also mentioned it in my review.

  2. I like the sound of this book, i love this kind of story where life as it is known unravels and incidents and meetings lead to a new reality.

  3. Thanks, Lydia, for this gorgeous review. Love the 5 stars too. I will post on facebook tomorrow.





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