NIAGARA by Robert Lewis Taylor
Kirkus Star


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A novel that Taylor (Pulitzer-winner for The Travels of Jamie McPheeters) clearly enjoyed writing: long and episodic, it bubbles along on high spirits and hardly bothers to provide a villain, yet always scores with its sheer flow of amused Americana about the Niagara Falls region. William Morrison III, a well-to-do 21-year-old casting about for an occupation, gets hired by his uncle James Gordon Bennett, owner of the New York Herald (a squalling scandal sheet); and he's sent to Niagara to sniff out some ripe tripe in the newly burgeoning resort town--which, in the 1850s, makes Bill the first of the ""foreign correspondents"" for a Manhattan daily. Bill is barely ensconced at Cataract House, the wealthiest hotel at the Falls, before he's seduced by Frances, a charming 30-year-old Englishwoman. And soon he's also going to bed drunk and being undressed and tucked in by Betsy the chambermaid, while being charmed as well by Southern belle Samantha, a neurotic who feels the famed ""pull"" of the Falls. The pull, in fact, is the main subject of the novel, and we are treated to a circus of idiots running the rapids in metal barrels, crossing from the American to Canadian side and back on tightropes (one artiste even carries a stove and cooks a meal midway)--all those loons who shoot the Falls itself in various containers. (Indeed, barrel-making is the chief art of the region and argued about violently by everyone.) Eventually, when Samantha feels the pull too strongly and is carried away, Bill and Betsy go in after her but fail to save her. And then Betsy turns out to be the daughter of a scientist who inspires Bill to sail off to France to study winemaking: he returns, marries Betsy, and wildly overproduces the first Niagara wines on his first harvest. Charming.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1980
Publisher: Putnam