The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie BuchananThe Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Day The Falls Stood Still

byCathy Marie Buchanan

Paperback | August 25, 2009

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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 the 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, Bess’s vivacious older sister, is a shadow of her former self. She has shut herself in her bedroom, barely eating and harboring 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 falls for themselves. As the couple’s 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.
Cathy Marie Buchanan’s stories have appeared in several of Canada’s most respected literary journals:The Antigonish Review,The Dalhousie Review,Descant,The New QuarterlyandQuarry. She holds a BSC (Honors Biochemistry) and an MBA from the University of Western Ontario. Born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario, she grew up amid the awe-...
Title:The Day The Falls Stood StillFormat:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 8.75 × 6.35 × 1 inPublished:August 25, 2009Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1554683270

ISBN - 13:9781554683277


Rated 3 out of 5 by from Decent read. I wanted more from the characters and the plot line in this book.
Date published: 2018-06-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A love story and a life story about Bess, Tom and Niagara Falls. On her way home from graduation, Bess Heath happens upon a chance encounter with Tom Cole on the trolley platform, who helps her with her luggage. Thus begins an attraction between the two that’s as powerful as Niagara Falls, much to the Heath family’s dismay. While they were once a high ranking family in society, with the loss of Bess’ father’s job at the Niagara Power Company and her mother having to sew dresses for a living, they have been reduced in societal standing. Even still, they disapprove of their daughter’s infatuation with the boy. Bess is conflicted between her responsibility as a daughter to her family and her urge to follow her heart. After reading Buchanan’s new book, The Painted Girls, and absolutely adoring it I knew I had to read her first book as well. The Day the Falls Stood Still is a coming of age novel about a young woman growing up in Niagara Falls in 1915 while the war is happening overseas and the technological progress is happening at home. Bess’ trials and tribulations from the fallout of her father losing his job reaches the extremes of severity. From having to adjust their lifestyle to dealing with more life altering circumstances, the Heath family is certainly put through the wringer. While the narrative is captivating, there were times I wondered where the story was going. Buchanan does a great job of drawing the reader into Bess & Tom’s lives but there were moments that I thought, “okay… and???” I did like the character development with many of the supporting cast as well. Even though Tom & Bess were at the heart of the story, I felt the other people in their lives were also well fleshed out too. Another aspect I took note of in both this book and The Painted Girls is that there was a central familial focus on the sisters & mother dynamic. Both novels explored the relationship between sisters, as well as mother & daughters going through difficulties in their lives which I found both interesting, and relatable. At the heart of it, The Day the Falls Stood Still is a love story and a life story – about Bess, about Tom and about the Falls. It read like an ode to the region that Buchanan grew up in, and it shows with the historical detail that was worked into the book. This, and other reviews can be found on
Date published: 2013-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Canadiana Bess Heath is 15 years old and looking forward to her final year at an exclusive girl’s academy. However, on her last day at the academy she is informed that she will not be returning to complete her graduating year. Her father has lost his job at the Niagara Power Company. Thus begins Bess’ new life, complete with a sister rejected by her fiancée, a chance encounter with the “ne’er do well” Tom Cole, and having to help as a seamstress just to make ends meet. Bess’s story is the basis for the book, but this book is so much more than that. This book tells of a Niagara Falls before Clifton Hill became a tourist attraction, when dare-devils still rode over the falls in barrels and lovers still picnicked by the whirlpools. Again, as captivating as the story is the backstory of World War 1, the politics behind the Hydro Electric companies harnessing the power of the falls and the role of women during the whole period were equally as interesting. This book is an excellent debut for Ms. Buchanan. I heard her read an excerpt from her book at Word on the Street in 2010, purchased the book and gave it to my daughter as a Christmas gift. I never did borrow it back to read it myself so when I came upon the audio version I knew I had to listen to it. Kudos to narrator Karen White who brings Bess’ voice to life. Highly recommend this book. Looking forward to more from this new Canadian author.
Date published: 2012-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Get this book on the Canadian High School Curriculum!! This book is beautiful, heart-wrenching and powerful. I was completely immersed in the life of Bess Heath. I found myself reading about historical events and terms that I vaguely remember being forced to learn about when I was in high school with no care about them then. This book made me wish I remembered more about them, or cared more when I was 14. But when I was 14 I was going to be a Rock Star and I didn’t give a hoot about what sort of Hydro Electric pacts were being made over the falls in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Whatevs! – I would scoff. I cared deeply for Bess and her sister Isabelle and was heart broken when Bess was heart broken throughout the story. I found Bess’s relationship with Mrs. Anderson endearing and touching and I often had to remind myself that as she was married on her 18th birthday, the three years that had passed while her beloved was at war made her only 21. Bess lived through more in those 3 years than I feel I have lived in my 34. Toward the end of the novel I turned to my husband and said, “This is a book they should teach in English classes in Canada.” And I mean it, I would have probably scoffed at the historical parts when I was in 10th or 11th grade (in Quebec high school is grades 7-11) but I would have fallen in love with the characters and therefore cared about what happened to the falls or to the people who drowned in them or made their livelihood from them. This book is steeped in very important Canadian history and yet it is woven so gracefully into the plot as a whole you do not feel like you’re being forced to read a stuffy ol’ history text book. It has the same sort of feeling that Anne of Green Gables had, or the Little House on the Prairie series. You grow to love the characters and what they care about and you weep with them over loss as you have come to adore those that have passed away just as much as the characters do. I myself have only been to Niagara Falls once in my life, and I don’t really remember much other than that none of the boots or raincoats fit me for the Maid of the Mist boat ride and that my parents wouldn’t take my sister and I to the wax museum because they said we were too young. I think I might have been 7 or 8 on this trip, 9 at the oldest. I have often said I would like to go back one day, but sadly it’s very much a tourist trap these days and I don’t like the crowds and of course everything is cordoned off for safety. I would love to see the falls as they were back in 1915. The next book that Cathy Marie Buchanan puts out I am picking up without any hesitation. She created a world out of history that was so enrapturing that I was sad when I was finished with the story. I thought I was starting a new chapter when I realized that I was reading the Author’s Note. Oops! I was still reeling from events that had just come to pass and wasn’t paying attention to the chapter numbers! Even now I am still grieving for fictional characters that I will never get to know. Brilliant novel that made me discover a new appreciation of Canadian history.
Date published: 2011-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I was transfixed Every year millions of people visit Niagara Falls. It continues to be one of the top tourist destinations. If you've ever been there, you understand why. To stand at the brink of the Falls watching more than six million cubic feet cascade over the edge every minute is mine boggling. It is not a sight you will soon forget. Author Cathy Buchanan has truly captured the majesty and excitement of the area in her novel The Day the Falls Stood Still. The story is set in the time of World War 1 and the years afterward. Young Bess Heath has one year of school at Loretto Academy left, when her mother removes her from the school. Her father had been working for the hydro company and has recently lost his job. Her sister's engagement has been broken. The whole family is trying to find themselves again. Into all this turmoil, add a young man that Bess has spied in the area. I was transfixed by this book. I suppose it had to do with having grown up only fifteen minutes away from the falls. It was a common occurrence at my house to jump in the car to go and see the 'lights' at night, to go and see if the ice bridge had closed across the river below the fall. to visit for any reason. I have watched a fair number of shows about Niagara Falls as well as stories that have been set in the town, and this book ranks at the top with the best of them. Most definitely this is the book to read if you want to get a true feeling of what the area must have been like prior to it becoming a huge tourist mecca. The character of Tom Cole is loosely based on true life river man Red Hill.
Date published: 2011-02-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting Canadianna Returning from her boarding school to find that her father has lost his job at the Niagara Power Company, her mother has started taking in sewing from the society ladies that she was once a part of and her sister is depressed and withdrawn, seventeen year old Bess meets Tom Cole, a poor riverman who makes his living fishing and pulling bodies from the Niagara Gorge. Falling in love with Tom, Bess is torn between two worlds, the possible luxury that she had always been accustomed to versus the hardships of a life less known. Many of us living in Ontario have been to Niagara Falls, and many people from all over the world visit and awe at its beauty and majesty. But how many of us stop to wonder about the history of this great natural wonder. The Day the Falls Stood Still is more than just a girl meets boy story. It is filled with vivid detail and description of, not only Niagara Falls, but what life was like at the turn of the century, the class struggles and the gender roles. The story takes place during the genesis of Ontario’s power generation. We are treated to an in depth history of the Ontario Hydro Electric Commission, later Ontario Hydro. Founded by Sir Adam Beck, Ontario Hydro Electric Commission built the world’s largest hydroelectric plant, fulfilling the growing demand for electricity and ushered us from the world of coal and gas lamps to electricity. But not everyone was happy about the plants being build and interfering with the natural majesty of the Falls, and this is represented in the book by Tom’s character. Bess is an inspirational and strong female character. Having the choice between two lifestyles, one more luxuriant than the other, she chooses the harder road. I think women are stronger in handling the struggles of life. To me Bess is a representation of the spirit of women. At times I felt the story was a little depressing, just when you think things are getting better for Bess, something else happens to hamper her, but still she perseveres. However, this novel really made me interested in doing further research on the history of Niagara Falls, trying to discover so I could imagine what the area looked like at the time, before all the tourist attractions were built. As a Canadian who grew up close to Niagara, and visited every summer, it was good to read a Canadian story that I could relate to.
Date published: 2009-11-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really well written Reminded of Mary Novik's "Conceit" in the way it was written. Very interesting that it is from the Canadian point of view of Niagara Falls during development of hydro-electricity on the falls. Great story and great writing.
Date published: 2009-10-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Loved it!! The year is 1915. Bess Heath is brought home from private school for the summer to learn of her father's dismissal from the Niagara Power Company. Her mother now takes in sewing in order to feed the family. Bess's sister Isabel is a former shell of her vivacious self, having been dumped by her fiancee. On the way home from boarding school Bess meets Tom Cole who helps her and her mother with her trunk. Bess is drawn to Tom but he is not of their social strata and therefore unsuitable. Tom is a riverman. He understands the river and its vagaries. He becomes a local hero in performing several daring river rescues. Tom hates what the power companies are doing to the river. This story weaves the Niagara River around the lives of Tom and Bess. It is simply a wonderful read. The history of World War I and the start-up of electric power at Niagara Falls was fascinating to read about. There were several times I had to tell other people what I had just learned. Did you know.....? The Niagara River is a big part of the book and almost seems like an additional character. Buchanan has written a wonderful piece of Canadian historical fiction. I live near to Niagara Falls and can only wonder if double the water were to be flowing down the river what the falls would look like today! Loved, loved, loved it!!!
Date published: 2009-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Canadian Novel It's 1915 and hydroelectric power is starting to take a grip on Niagara, Ontario. When Bess Heath's mom comes to pick her up from private school, Bess immediately notices things are different. Her father and sister aren't there like they usually are, and they have to take the trolley home rather than being driven. Bess learns that her father was fired from his job and her sister Isabel was dumped by her fiance. The Heath family goes from a prominent in society to Bess' mom being a dressmaker; a skill that Bess picks up quickly. Meanwhile, Bess is enamored with Tom Cole, a "riverman" that can predict the movement of the water through the whirlpool, fish dead bodies out of the river, or save people from being swept away. Bess' parents don't approve of Tom and instead try to push her towards the son of an old family friend, which tears Bess apart. Along with all the character development and drama, the geography adds another layer to the story, acting like a character on its own. Whenever something happens to a character, the river and falls are usually somehow involved. I very much enjoyed the depth this added and having lived less than an hour away from Niagara Falls my entire life I could easily picture where the characters were and the awe they saw in the river. I also enjoyed reading of the Canadian perspective of what was happening at home during World War One. The book describes how everyone has to save, when they allow themselves treats, and how women were asked to convince their husbands to go overseas to fight. The entire book has a sense of foreboding and the entire time I felt like something bad was going to happen. I just couldn't put down the book because I had to know what was going to happen to the characters. Interestingly, the novel was based off a real Niagara Riverman who saved many during his life.
Date published: 2009-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant! 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.
Date published: 2009-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must read!! This book is a must read for historical fiction buffs. While I thoroughly enjoyed the rich history of Niagara Falls in the book, I was completely enraptured by the characters and story. I smiled, I sobbed, I didn't want it to end. Not since reading Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace have I felt so connected to the time period & characters. A truly wonderful book. Well done Ms. Buchanan!!
Date published: 2009-08-25

Editorial Reviews

?What a wordsmith! What a work of depth and breadth! What a world newcomer Cathy Marie Buchanan brings to propulsively glittering and gorgeous life in The Day the Falls Stood Still. Few first novels exhibit the mastery, maturity and majesty of Buchanan?s riveting fictional debut, a heart-wrenching, soul-racking, spell-binding tale interwoven with guts, anguish and glory guaranteed to remain in readers? minds long after they?ve crossed its devastating finish line.?-- The Globe and Mail ()