Diana Lawrenson

— Writer —

Diana Lawrenson Pages to Places Blog

Welcome to my blog that takes you from pages to places. Come and discover some quirky, little-known, or loose-but-relevant links from books to places around the world. You might even like to add a book suggestion of your own to the topic.

29 July 2017 | Niagara Falls, North America


Niagara FallsFrom a distance it looked like a plume of thick smoke. Perhaps it was a fire – after all, it was the middle of summer. But no, it was a rising cloud of water vapour from the Niagara Falls.

A few years ago my book group read Niagara FallsToo Close to the Falls, a memoir of childhood by Catherine Gildiner, an American-Canadian psychologist who is now a full-time writer. It’s a book that has stuck in my memory because of community changes and understanding that have taken place since the 1950s and 60s, and because of the humour Gildiner uses to punctuate a most unusual upbringing spent on the American side of the Falls.

The breadth and treachery of the rapids approaching the FallsNiagara Falls, and the sheer power of the blue-green water plunging over and down to a cauldron of whirlpools and turbulence, is mesmerising. We watched indoors from our hotel room. We watched outdoors from behind safety barriers on cliffs. And we watched with apprehension from the deck of a motorised catamaran edging ever closer as spray showered us in our plastic ponchos and the roar of water obliterated any conversation.

A cliff on the American side is a gull rookery, while redwings live among shrubberyRedwing, Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. Unbothered by its proximity to the Falls and clearly used to people taking photos, one redwing obligingly posed this way and that on a stone wall people leaned against to see the massive cascades of water.

Annie Edson Taylor, Niagara FallsSatiated with the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls and the Horseshoe Falls that together constitute the Niagara Falls, we visited the Daredevil Museum. In 1901 Annie Edson Taylor, a 63 year old teacher, was the first person to go over deliberately and survive. A widow, she’d hoped to make her fortune, but she didn’t and furthermore, her barrel disappeared. Still, being the first her attempt brought her fame and a place in history. On display are other barrels and contraptons that have survived, even if the daredevils inside them haven’t always. The most miraculous survival is that of seven year old Roger Woodward. In 1960 after a boating mishap he was swept over wearing only swimming trunks and a life-vest.

Today it’s illegal to make a deliberate attempt, but there are still those who believe the fine is worth the risk for fame – if they live to tell the tale.


Niagara Falls at daybreak


  • Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildiner, a memoir
  • The Falls by Joyce Carol Oats, a novel
  • The Queen of the Falls written and illustrated by Chris van Allsberg, biography of Annie Edson Taylor for children
  • Queen of the Mist, the Forgotten Heroine of Niagara by Joan Murray, non-fiction
  • Niagara Daredevils: Thrills and Spills over Niagara by Cheryl MacDonald, non-fiction
  • Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power and Lies by Ginger Strand, non-fiction


  1. Intriguing bites of information, Diana. I’ve always wanted to see the falls, but haven’t ventured there yet. Amazing what some people will do though isn’t it? Enjoy.

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