The Day the Falls Stood Still Cathy Marie Buchanan (2009)
*** 3/5 stars Check out GoodReads for more reviews of this novel
Set on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls at the beginning of World War I this novel follows a love story between middle class Bess and riverman Tom Cole. But it isn't a simple love story. Themes of industrialization, conservation, and integrity run throughout as the couple struggle with making a new life in a changing world. After her parents' fortune take a turn for the worse, Bess is left to pick up the pieces of their lives and apprentice as seamstress. Her paramours is the grandson of Niagara Falls' most beloved riverman--the man who arrived in town the day the falls stood still. Tom Cole inherited his grandfather's fame and knowledge of the Niagara River, but his business is a mixed blessing. Tom is based on real riverman and dare devil William (Red) Hill, whose exploits delighted the local population. But from Bess's vantage point, Tom's obsession with the river is often incomprehensible. Set at the height of the industrialization of the falls, the novel explores Niagara history, but also how industrialization threatened the river. This novel is not about needlework, but needlework is prominently featured. There are fascinating descriptions of garment construction, changes in fashion and how the livelihood of seamstresses changed as a result of industrialization that should captivate anyone who enjoys sewing.
Resources about places and people featured in the novel
Cathy Marie Buchanan's web site has a wealth of information on Niagara Falls and its history, including an interactive map of the Falls.
The real ice bridge disaster is fictionalized in the novel.
The story of William (Red) Hill , who inspired the character of Tom Cole, is fascinating.
I imagine Bess's sister's wedding dress looked much like this!