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Niagara by Pierre Berton

Niagara (1992)

by Pierre Berton

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1553109,823 (4.07)5



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the book was better as we got into the 20th century. too many people trying to beat the falls and become famous and mostly dying. ( )
  mahallett | Jul 15, 2018 |
Episodic accounts of the site and the people that have made this place what it is today. Con men and sensation seekers have been part of its European history almost from the start. It finishes with the debacle of the Love Canal crime.
The tales varied, but this was quite interesting on the whole.
Probably 3.5 stars. ( )
  quiBee | Jan 21, 2016 |
Pierre Berton (1920-2004), famous popularizer of Canadian history, is my favourite non-fiction author. His telling of the story of Niagara follows all the same patterns as his other great works. Here he takes a James Michener approach, framing a location through multiple generations; yet rather than fictionalizing the story, he lets the true events and people populate the tale. He also keeps his work to a reasonable length. The result is just enough coverage of each related tale for a good story before he's moved on to the next vignette, so I was frequently consulting Wikipedia and other online sources to get the rest.

And you do want to get the rest. What's presented here is a fascinating overview of the earliest explorers and their impressions, then the next generation of explorers, then the first generation of visitors, etc. Soon these are joined by the geologists, the engineers, the entrepreneurs, the opportunists, the conservationists, the showmen, the daredevils, the activists - all the facets of human activity in the region are present and touched upon [or nearly: military history is omitted, as the author has covered those events in detail elsewhere]. I was reluctantly pulled forward each time, not quite done with wanting more of the previous section, only to become equally fascinated with the next.

I've been to the Falls two or three times, so I could easily imagine the scenes. This book is understandably not as popular among his works as his others with more national coverage and relevance. But if you've any intention of visiting Niagara Falls yourself, whether again or for the first time, this book provides what is probably the most excellent pre-reading available - not to mention a wonderful introduction to this author. ( )
1 vote Cecrow | Nov 16, 2009 |
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"The Indians hold Niagara claims its yearly meed of victims. It may be so. Or does Niagara thus avenge itself on the civilization that has trimmed and tamed its forests and dressed it up in tinsel-coloured lights?" - Lady Mary McDowel; Duffus Hardy, Sketches of an American Tour, 1881
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In the beginning was the ice.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140270167, Paperback)

Sometimes a place can be as good a subject for a "biography" as a person--and Niagara Falls turns out to be such a place. Fortunately, it found its ideal biographer in Canadian historian Pierre Berton, who chronicles its colorful history with a storyteller's verve. Niagara Falls was a sort of laboratory and breeding ground for a wide variety of American phenomena: carnivals and theme parks, destination tourism, industrialization based on cheap hydroelectric power, and the conservation movement, among others. Berton weaves all this together in a readable, well-paced book rich with anecdotes, memorable characters, and nicely crafted language.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:58 -0400)

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SUMMARY: The story of seven lively and naughty children who live with their father and young stepmother in a house on the banks of the Parramatta River in the 1890s.

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