At first glance The Day the Falls Stood Still seems like a beautiful love story, which it is, but it is much more than that. The story incorporates within its pages, the lore and legend of the beautiful Niagara Falls and Niagara River. Several of the incidents retold in the story are historical facts. Most interesting to me were the environmental questions already rising in the early 1900s, the conflict between the Falls and it use for hydroelectricity.
A good story, strong prose, well drawn likeable characters, fact woven into fiction and social history – all make this an extremely readable book.
The main protagonists are Tom Cole and his wife Bess. The character of Tom is loosely based on the best known of Niagara “riverman” Red Hill. Red Hill grew up on the shores of the Niagara and from a very early age he was obsessed with the river and the Falls. He was supposed to have been able to forecast weather simply by listening to the Falls, he could predict disaster , at night he knew that the next morning he would find a body in the river he would need to salvage. Several daring rescues, some retold in the story are credited to him.
Even today 50% of the waters of the Niagara river are redirected for purposes of hydroelectricity before they reach the Falls. Tom faces the serious ethical choice of whether to work for the Hydroelectric plant and earn a decent living for his family when he knows well that he is employed primarily for purposes of public relations. If the riverman can work for the power plant, it cannot be a bad thing.
There are those who would have drained the Falls dry and if you have ever seen the wondrous Niagara Falls you would be so thankful they did not succeed. The story raises so many questions, conservation of nature versus its exploitation, duty versus principle, duty to society versus to one’s family.
Tom’s deep and abiding love for the river is moving. Tom does not believe in stunts on the river or Falls, he has no desire to go over the Falls in a barrel.
The river and Falls are to be worshipped and loved, not conquered. The book includes newspaper articles and photographs from the early 1900s which add value to the book. An excellent book for a book club, it will prompt plenty of conversation and discussion.
Geetha`s love of books began when she was a child. She later turned that love into formal education with a Masters in English Literature and then again into a career for a few years, teaching English at Ethiraj and Fergusson Colleges in India. Though her career took her into the computer industry, Geetha has continued to read both individually as well as part of a book club in Newmarket, Canada where she lives.