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Table Of Contents

P. 1
The Falls: A Novel

The Falls: A Novel

Ratings:

3.63

(346)
|Views: 165|Likes:
Published by HarperCollins

It is 1950 and, after a disastrous honeymoon night, Ariah Erskine's young husband throws himself into the roaring waters of Niagara Falls. Ariah, "the Widow Bride of the Falls," begins a relentless seven-day vigil in the mist, waiting for his body to be found. At her side is confirmed bachelor and pillar of the community Dirk Burnaby, who is unexpectedly drawn to her. What follows is a passionate love affair, marriage, and family -- a seemingly perfect existence. But tragedy soon takes over their lives, poisoning their halcyon years with distrust, greed, and murder.

Set against the mythic-historic backdrop of Niagara Falls in the mid-twentieth century, this haunting exploration of the American family in crisis is a stunning achievement from "one of the great artistic forces of our time" (The Nation).

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

It is 1950 and, after a disastrous honeymoon night, Ariah Erskine's young husband throws himself into the roaring waters of Niagara Falls. Ariah, "the Widow Bride of the Falls," begins a relentless seven-day vigil in the mist, waiting for his body to be found. At her side is confirmed bachelor and pillar of the community Dirk Burnaby, who is unexpectedly drawn to her. What follows is a passionate love affair, marriage, and family -- a seemingly perfect existence. But tragedy soon takes over their lives, poisoning their halcyon years with distrust, greed, and murder.

Set against the mythic-historic backdrop of Niagara Falls in the mid-twentieth century, this haunting exploration of the American family in crisis is a stunning achievement from "one of the great artistic forces of our time" (The Nation).

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

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Publish date: Oct 13, 2009
Added to Scribd: Aug 28, 2013
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reservedISBN:9780061742811
List Price: $10.99 Buy Now

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richardson76 reviewed this
Rated 5/5
I loved everything about this book. Great read, highly recommend and it would be great for a book club.
laurajwryan reviewed this
Rated 5/5
Remarkable. My head is just too chock full of things to say, but feel somewhat speechless. "The Falls" feels like a force of nature — it roars along with a can't put it down pace, scenes full of emotive words smashing their way to the end — and the end came quietly as if further down river away from the misty, churning Niagara River gorge. A very satisfying read, and has become a new ‘favorite’ on my bookshelf full of favorites by JCO (Them, Wonderland, Middle Age, Bellefleur). It is one of her best.
catien_3 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
As with most of Oates' books, I began reading this and thought, Okay, this is odd. Am I going to be able to slog through this? Then, before I know it, I'm sucked into the story and can't put it down. This is a saga covering almost 40 years in the life of the Burnaby family and the history of Niagra Falls. I couldn't even begin to summarize all that happens during that time. Suffice it to say, it is a fascinating and enjoyable journey.
bookishdame reviewed this
Rated 5/5
I think Joyce Carol Oates is the genius of our generation. She is the American woman writer of our times who expresses the angst and the character of people of the 20th century, and now into the 21st century. There's not a book she's written that isn't worthwhile reading and discussing in a bookgroup or study."The Falls," is the story of a family who lives in Niagra Falls and experiences the trials and traumas of ordinary, disfunction; as well as the political history that blankets their town. It's a history of the Falls, too, and a history of what created the Love Canal...the poisonous run-off of radioactive chemicals that made such a turmoil that the American side of the Falls was split from the Canadian side.I've visited the Falls, and the contrast between the Love Canal side and the other is like visiting a ghost town or ghetto to a city in a garden state. Strange and decidedly a warning of things possible with chemical poisoning of waters by big business.The storyline of this novel is engaging, to say the least, and the tension between family members and lovers is keenly felt as you read.I highly recommend "The Falls" to everyone!
gbill_7 reviewed this
Rated 2/5
The book seemed to me three books somewhat oddly pieced together: the first on marriage (and the arbitrariness of marriage), the second on the Love Canal scandal which is based on fact, and the third on the effects of parent's broken lives on their children. I loved the first part which peaked for me in the "7 July 1950" chapter ("She would say yes. Yes with her eager wiry little body like a nerved-up cat's fitting itself to the man...."). I thought the struggle to expose the Love Canal scandal was "OK" but these chapters had the book feeling like a movie to me, one which I wouldn't be particularly inclined to see. The novel started crumbling in the lives of the children, with silly episodes like the hostage crisis and the inexplicable sex in the cemetary. I know I'm simplifying here and there are threads that tie the book together (moreover, real life is not one pretty bundled package!), but this is my impression, and the themes that did recur throughout, like the ominous nature of Niagara Falls, seemed forced particularly in the later chapters. Quotes:On marriage:"Two trembling young people at the altar being blessed like cattle about to be slaughtered by a common butcher. Bonded by terror yet strangely oblivious of each other.""Not jus the women have domesticated us for their own purposes, they make us feel guilty as hell when the domestication doesn't take.""They surprised each other less often in their lovemaking. There must have been a day, an hour, when they made love during the daytime for the final time; when they made love impulsively somewhere other than their big, comfortable bed for the final time...""Was this the basic principle of domestic life, of the terrible need to propagate one's kind? The human wish, as in a fairy tale, to live longer than one's lifetime, through one's children. To live longer than one is allotted, and to matter. To matter deeply, profoundly to someone.""Royall said, disgusted, 'Christ's sake, Mom! If I wanted a 'sweet' wife I'd marry a chocolate bunny. I'd go to bed with fucking Fannie Farmer.'"On suicide:"As Dirk Burnaby once said, you had to have a deep, mysterious soul to want to destroy yourself. The shallower you are, the safer."On death:"The cemetery, Royall decided, was like a city. It continued the injustice of the city and of life. Most of the grave markers were ordinary stone, weather-worn and soiled with bird lime, while others were more expensive, larger, made of granite or marble with shiny engraved facades."On the 50's:"It was 1950 and everyone was pregnant."And on the Love Canal:"Women having miscarriages, babies born with bad hearts, missing parts of their colons, you ascribe to more 'congenital deficiencies.' When the state finally ordered blood tests for the Love Canal residents, finally in 1971, in the Armory, people were asked to come at 8 A.M. and waited all day, and at 5 P.M. half were still waiting. There was a 'needle shortage.' 'Nurse shortage.' Three hundred blood samples were 'contaminated.' Lab results were 'inconclusive' - 'misfiled'. Some of us have been criticized for suggesting these doctors are not much different from the Nazi doctors doing experiments on human beings, but I hold to that charge."
actonbell_1 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Joyce Carol Oates expertly takes cultural icons and important events and builds novels around them that seem vividly real--as they could very well be.The Falls is actually several stories all wrapped into one novel. First, we meet Ariah Erksine, a newlywed whose husband commits suicide the morning after their wedding night by getting up early, racing to the falls, and plunging in. This is the strange event that gets the novel going. JCO is very good at this; many of her novels begin with events that are very strange and very tragic, but they are always believable when they roll off her pen.The second strange event is that Dirk Burnaby, a lawyer friend of the local entrepreneur who happens to own the hotel at which Ariah is staying, and a rich, highly eligible bachelor, falls in love with Ariah while she keeps her eccentric, week-long vigil by the falls, until rescue crews find her husband's corpse. She becomes known as The Widow Bride of the Falls, and winds up marrying Burnaby a short time later, a man she barely knows. He's persuasive.The two of them have a very passionate relationship and three children, before Dirk Burnaby becomes engrossed in the first Love Canal Case--this is 1962. Here, JCO provides a short history of the Love Canal tragedy that is both succinct and riveting, though she does change the names. I've googled enough to know that the basic facts are correct. This case was never resolved until 1978, and Burnably did not live to see it. On the contrary, his life was ruined because he took this case.The latter part of the book follows his children, their relationship with their strange, damaged mother, and how each of them play a part in discovering a part of their father's past, despite their mother's determined silence. This is a family history that takes place in the wake of the famous Niagara Falls, and I found it quite poignant.I became quite involved with this novel, and liked most of the principal characters. Though long, at 481 pages, it went by rather quickly, and I would gladly recommend it to most people.
hazelk_9 reviewed this
Rated 2/5
This was my first novel by this author who I know is well esteemed. It's possible I chose the wrong novel of hers to start with as I gave up quite quickly so obviously can't make an informed criticism. I'll try another of her books now..
karieh_2 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
The most compelling character in Joyce Carol Oates’s “The Falls” is the title character. Niagara Falls, the power and drama of the waterfalls…and the hypnotic aspect of one of nature’s most amazing creations…in that character I found beauty and intrigue.“The most treacherous corner of Goat Island, as it was the most beautiful and enthralling. Here the rapids go into a frenzy. White frothy churning water shooting up fifteen feet into the air. Hardly any visibility. The chaos of a nightmare. The Horseshoe Falls is a gigantic cataract a half-mile long at its crest, three thousand tons of water pouring over the gorge each second. The air roars, shakes. The ground beneath your feet shakes. As if the very earth is beginning to come apart, disintegrate into particles, down to its molten center. As if time has ceased. Time has exploded. As if you’ve come too near to the radiant, thrumming, mad heart of all being. Here, your veins, arteries, the minute precision and perfection of your nerves will be unstrung in an instant. Your brain, in which you reside, that one-of-a-kind repository of you, will be pounded into its chemical components: brain cells, molecules, atoms. Every shadow and echo of every memory erased.”“Maybe that’s the promise of The Falls? The secret?”Sorry that quote was so long – but there’s no place to stop once you fall under the spell of those words. I’ve never been to Niagara Falls – but after reading that part, I find myself mentally forcing myself away from the edge, psychically wiping drops of heavily churned water from my skin. I am there, I feel the sounds, and my eyes are drawn into the massive amounts of water and spray and sheer force.Whenever Oates takes us back to the falls – my interest is piqued once again. During the rest of the book, as we meet damaged character after damaged character…my interest wanes. As I have said before (and will no doubt say many times again), my fatal flaw as a reader is that I have to feel some connection to at least one of the characters in the book to really want to keep reading the book. None of the (human) characters in this book connected with me.I did feel sympathy and interest for Ariah, “The Widow Bride of the Falls” until her character abruptly changed, or manifested itself. The idea that a groom, one day after marrying, would throw himself into Niagara Falls is quite a hook. Ariah’s feelings about this event were compelling, to say the least. But once her life takes a more conventional turn, she seems to be a different person. Instead of sympathy, I started to feel revulsion.Which is fine… So then we enter the minds of other characters, her second husband, her children… These people have so many problems, so much despair, and seem unable to relate to their lives, their world. Maybe Oates takes us too far into their minds, into the deepest, darkest parts of their soul, where things live that no one wants to even think about, let alone talk about. Maybe I ended up knowing too much about them to connect to them. Again, this is fine…for some readers. Oates brings forth some real truths – some we may not want to acknowledge – but ones that exist, nonetheless.“You yearn to hurt them sometimes. Those who love you too much.”And there’s another quote (which I now an unable to find for the life of me) that says something like “the world is torn between those who fight to be loved more and those who fight to be loved less”. This book contains multiple examples of this – inappropriate loves, shameful loves, unforgiving loves, doomed loves…All worthy of examination…but maybe I just don’t have the stomach for such a process. Oates is such a descriptive and evocative writer…I just don’t think I am eager to see the world she describes or handle the emotions she evokes.
dts1dbm reviewed this
Rated 2/5
way too long - did audio version, first time reading this author - never got deep in story - left you hanging. wouldnt recommend unless you absolutely have nothing else to read
carmarie_1 reviewed this
My first book by Joyce Carole Oats. It was incredibly deep with the emotions of the two main characters almost dripping off the page. After the couple married, the book almost lost me....and after the son grew up it was a real stuggle to keep going. It seemed with their passionate love, the book faded too...but it may just be me.

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P. 1
The Falls: A Novel