Customer Reviews for

The Falls

Average Rating 3.5
( 58 )
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5 Star

(19)

4 Star

(12)

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(10)

2 Star

(11)

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(6)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

Oates at her most beautiful

THE FALLS is the kind of breathless, unrelenting novel we can only read once or twice a year considering the energy it saps from you. But it¿s a good draining, for the book is like a marathon, and the breathlessness we feel at the end is not strained but earned from wh...
THE FALLS is the kind of breathless, unrelenting novel we can only read once or twice a year considering the energy it saps from you. But it¿s a good draining, for the book is like a marathon, and the breathlessness we feel at the end is not strained but earned from what we are willing to give it, and what it gives to us. Its forceful and fully realized characters allow the plot to pulse along at breakneck speed, and we are rewarded by the enthralling story Oates has spun from her seemingly bottomless imagination. While it may not be the most astounding of Oates¿s numerous dazzling achievements (for me, that novel is WHAT I LIVED FOR), THE FALLS is nonetheless a testament to the idea of fictions as entertainments, and of a novel¿s ability to speak from its own subconscious but compelling narrative voice. Oates¿s evocation of time and place in and around the Niagara Falls area of New York is, as usual, on display to full effect, and the powerful female protagonist (Arriah) becomes¿by novel¿s end¿one of Oates¿s most memorable. If you know anything of Oates¿s corpus, this is a not a small thing. Highly recommended, and highly entertaining.

posted by Anonymous on June 14, 2005

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Most Helpful Critical Review

6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

A gripping novel marred by sloppy writing.

The jacket of the novel proclaims, 'A stunning achievement from Joyce Carol Oates, 'One of the great artistic forces of our time.' (The Nation) 'It alone places Joyce Carol Oates definitively in the company of the Great American novelists.' The generally acerbic Kirkus...
The jacket of the novel proclaims, 'A stunning achievement from Joyce Carol Oates, 'One of the great artistic forces of our time.' (The Nation) 'It alone places Joyce Carol Oates definitively in the company of the Great American novelists.' The generally acerbic Kirkus Reviews wrote a flattering review also: 'It's her best ever and a masterpiece.' So I picked up the bulky book with great expectation of experiencing the joy of reading a good book. Alas, I was quite startled by the sloppy sentences written with very little care for either grammar or style. She says about Dirk Burnaby. 'He, Dirk Burnaby, whom women adored, and some of them happily married rich women, ignored by this woman!' 'The tall gaunt house in Palmyra, New York, mud-colored brick and rotted shingleboards in the roof and a congregation of less than two hundred people, most of them middle-aged and older, to whom the young minister must 'prove' himself.' Did the author mean fewer than two hundred people, not less than two hundred people? About Douglas she writes: 'He was proud husband and father of two-year-old girl twins.' Did she mean twin girls, not girl twins? Joyce uses nouns as adjectives, and adjectives as if they were adverbs. Her sentences grated upon my ears, and I wondered - how could a winner of the National Book Award (for 'Them', 1970) write such sloppy English? The novel is littered with sentences that run almost for ever, leaving readers jaded. I had to stop frequently to follow the author's chain of thoughts. Oh, what is the author trying to say? And often I had the distinct impression that she was trying to enter the Guiness Book of Records for writing the longest sentence in print:' His back bone was snapped, and snapped, and snapped like the dried wishbone of a turkey clutched at by giggling children and his body was flung lifeless as a rag doll at the foot of the Horseshoe Falls, lifted and dropped and lifted again amid the rocks and sucked down amid churning water and winking miniature rain drops, lost now to the appalled sight of the sole witness at the railing at Terrapin Point - though shortly it would be regurgitated from the foot of The Falls and swept downriver three-quarters of a mile past the Whilrpool Rapids and into the Devil's Whirlpool where it would be sucked down from sight and trapped in the spiraling water - the broken body would spin like a deranged moon in orbit until, in His mercy, or His whimsy, God would grant the miracle of putrifaction to inflate the body with gases, floating it to the surface of the foaming gyre, and release.' Wow! I found myself longing for the precise and elegant prose of V. S. Naipaul, Joseph Conrad, Yann Martel or Jane Austen. This could have been a wonderful book if only the editor had wielded her/his pencil diligently. Too bad. I found the story quite gripping, though. But the writing is flawed, like a face with beautiful, even angelic, features but marred by acne and pocks.

posted by Anonymous on November 18, 2004

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2005

    Oates at her most beautiful

    THE FALLS is the kind of breathless, unrelenting novel we can only read once or twice a year considering the energy it saps from you. But it¿s a good draining, for the book is like a marathon, and the breathlessness we feel at the end is not strained but earned from what we are willing to give it, and what it gives to us. Its forceful and fully realized characters allow the plot to pulse along at breakneck speed, and we are rewarded by the enthralling story Oates has spun from her seemingly bottomless imagination. While it may not be the most astounding of Oates¿s numerous dazzling achievements (for me, that novel is WHAT I LIVED FOR), THE FALLS is nonetheless a testament to the idea of fictions as entertainments, and of a novel¿s ability to speak from its own subconscious but compelling narrative voice. Oates¿s evocation of time and place in and around the Niagara Falls area of New York is, as usual, on display to full effect, and the powerful female protagonist (Arriah) becomes¿by novel¿s end¿one of Oates¿s most memorable. If you know anything of Oates¿s corpus, this is a not a small thing. Highly recommended, and highly entertaining.

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2005

    FANTASTIC

    I finished reading The Falls a few days ago and all I can say is 'WOW'. What a wonderful book! I just could not put this book down. The characters come to life and you feel like you know them and you begin to care about each and every one. I love the way JCO describes scenery and places, you feel like you are right there. I did not want this book to end. Even though I finished the book a few days ago I am still thinking about all the colorful characters, they all came to life for me. Joyce Carol Oates is an extremely gifted writer. This is the first book I have read by her and I can't wait to read more of her books. She writes so beautifully, her words just flow and you can't get enough. I love the fact that she incorporates history with fiction. I highly recommend this book to everyone. Please BUY IT! You won't be sorry.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2005

    I love this book!!!

    This is the first JCO's book I've read. I am hooked. I was incredibly sad when it ended. I haven't read a book that I kept thinking about for a long time. I have yet to start another because I am still savoring this one. Read this book and get ready to wonder about your own family dynamics!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2004

    The Places You'll Go

    ¿Oh, the Places You¿ll Go!¿ This title of a popular Dr. Seuss book is a great description of The Falls, a wonderful new book by Joyce Carol Oates. Oates is the definitive writer of tumultuous family relationships and the schism/crater/gulf between parent and child. The story begins in 1950 with a trip to Niagara Falls¿a popular honeymoon spot¿by a newly appointed minister and the spinster daughter of a distinguished reverend who have just been married. The daughter¿s parents are relieved with this match, but the young minister is not. He leaves his new marital bed and leaps off Horseshoe Falls. Thus begins the story of Ariah, the ¿Widow of the Falls¿ as she is named in the media flurry that follows the suicide of her husband. Despite this tragic beginning, the book is not gray and depressing. Ariah ¿awakens¿ after her husband¿s death and really begins her life with another marriage that produces three children. Ariah welcomes the children, but raising them causes her a great deal of difficulty. One of the many ¿places you¿ll go¿ in this story is the Love Canal, the site of a historically real and tragic scandal involving the U.S. Government, and this scandal captures the novel. At the Love Canal, toxic waste was improperly dumped, causing the deaths of many innocent people. Ariah¿s second husband, a lawyer, represents the victims at the Love Canal and sues the government and the companies involved, jeopardizing his influential position in the town. One of his colleagues shakes his head and warns him, ¿Never underestimate the moral rot of your adversary.¿ Ariah has trouble embracing the cause and is unable to withstand the rejection and adversity caused by the lawsuit. Ariah¿s three offspring are denied the story of her first husband, even though the town remembers the ¿Widow of the Falls.¿ The children are also denied any information about their own father because Ariah refuses to talk about him after his Love Canal escapade and separation from the family. The children make their own discoveries. To my surprise, the children become the protagonists and heroes of the story, overcoming many trials and tribulations in this generous tome. This novel hooked me very early. Many times I attempted to slow down the page-turning to delay the end of my relationships with these characters. But, alas, I devoured it way too fast. I hope to have more discipline and good sense when I read the book again, which I certainly will do. Oh the places I will go!

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2004

    Great Book Regardless Of What You May Have Read

    I completely disagree with the other person who posted a negative review on this book. That person had negative complaints that were more about punctuation and sentence formation which frankly, made him sound as though he were a school teacher grading the book rather than a reader relaxing and taking in the story for entertainment value. My take on the book was very different and I was completely entranced and at times touched by every long, run on sentence that the other reviewer complained about. The writer's form did not bother me at all and I rather enjoyed it. To me, it felt more like a person would really talk to you or the way your feelings and thoughts flow in real life; like floating and I think that is the feeling she was trying to create. I think it was mistaken for bad grammar when it was really just her sense of style. That's my take on it. She has always had this sort of gothic style where she tries to create a sense of timelessness and a 'being of its own world' kind of style. A sort of suspension that captures the reader into believing that, the only world that matters at that very moment is the one they create in their own imagination while they read the story. The book is their guide, however, some people are not going to understand her world or care for it if they do. So be it, put it down and don't finish it. But, I don't think it is fair to come on here and complain about this book (which I personally think was excellent and one of her best books) and critique it almost completely, based solely on it's lack of proper sentence formation and base your entire review on that when there were so many things to love about the writing here. That, is a total injustice. It's not fair to the book to say it could have been great but isn't because the editor didn't do a good job. This book IS great! It IS worth buying and reading! So go buy it!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2004

    A gripping novel marred by sloppy writing.

    The jacket of the novel proclaims, 'A stunning achievement from Joyce Carol Oates, 'One of the great artistic forces of our time.' (The Nation) 'It alone places Joyce Carol Oates definitively in the company of the Great American novelists.' The generally acerbic Kirkus Reviews wrote a flattering review also: 'It's her best ever and a masterpiece.' So I picked up the bulky book with great expectation of experiencing the joy of reading a good book. Alas, I was quite startled by the sloppy sentences written with very little care for either grammar or style. She says about Dirk Burnaby. 'He, Dirk Burnaby, whom women adored, and some of them happily married rich women, ignored by this woman!' 'The tall gaunt house in Palmyra, New York, mud-colored brick and rotted shingleboards in the roof and a congregation of less than two hundred people, most of them middle-aged and older, to whom the young minister must 'prove' himself.' Did the author mean fewer than two hundred people, not less than two hundred people? About Douglas she writes: 'He was proud husband and father of two-year-old girl twins.' Did she mean twin girls, not girl twins? Joyce uses nouns as adjectives, and adjectives as if they were adverbs. Her sentences grated upon my ears, and I wondered - how could a winner of the National Book Award (for 'Them', 1970) write such sloppy English? The novel is littered with sentences that run almost for ever, leaving readers jaded. I had to stop frequently to follow the author's chain of thoughts. Oh, what is the author trying to say? And often I had the distinct impression that she was trying to enter the Guiness Book of Records for writing the longest sentence in print:' His back bone was snapped, and snapped, and snapped like the dried wishbone of a turkey clutched at by giggling children and his body was flung lifeless as a rag doll at the foot of the Horseshoe Falls, lifted and dropped and lifted again amid the rocks and sucked down amid churning water and winking miniature rain drops, lost now to the appalled sight of the sole witness at the railing at Terrapin Point - though shortly it would be regurgitated from the foot of The Falls and swept downriver three-quarters of a mile past the Whilrpool Rapids and into the Devil's Whirlpool where it would be sucked down from sight and trapped in the spiraling water - the broken body would spin like a deranged moon in orbit until, in His mercy, or His whimsy, God would grant the miracle of putrifaction to inflate the body with gases, floating it to the surface of the foaming gyre, and release.' Wow! I found myself longing for the precise and elegant prose of V. S. Naipaul, Joseph Conrad, Yann Martel or Jane Austen. This could have been a wonderful book if only the editor had wielded her/his pencil diligently. Too bad. I found the story quite gripping, though. But the writing is flawed, like a face with beautiful, even angelic, features but marred by acne and pocks.

    6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 29, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    SURPRISES! SURPRISES! SURPRISES!

    GOOD READ! Flawed characters make this one and surprises and twists keep the reader's eyes glued to the pages; not an ooey gooey nauseating sweet tale, but a more true to life story with very human dilemmas. Interesting!

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2005

    Just finished the book this morning . . .

    Listened to Anna Fields' audio version of 'The Falls.' Loved it! I read the critique by the reviewer who raved on and on about the long sentences, word usage, etc. All I can say is the reviewer 'just doesn't get it.' The book was written that way for a purpose --- to create a mood --- 'The Falls' --- get it? That lives can be swept away by forces --- the writing conveys a perfect haunting, drowning mood --- which is exactly what a book about 'The Falls' should do.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2010

    Wonderful writer

    What a beautiful writing style. One where you savor the choice of words. The pictures painted are exquisite in their exacting detail.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2006

    Was the plot washed over The Falls as well?

    I could never find the point of the story. Characters came and went without resolve. Other times major plots were hinted at and then nothing ever became of them (ie Who was Chandler's biological father?) Sometimes the story telling became a first person narrative yet who was speaking was never clearly defined. I was left feeling confused and disappointed. There could have been much more to this story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2006

    Lost me in the middle

    I found the story compelling and the writing beautiful, poetic. However, can I be the only reader who found herself completely derailed by the gratuitous graveyard tryst in the middle of the novel? As an avid reader of many genres, I am willing and eager to suspend my disbelief when the story or genre calls for it. This event struck out of nowhere and with no conceivable purpose or justification. The behaviors of the characters in this scene were completely unbelievable. Clearly some catalyst was needed for the events that immediately followed, but given the skill of the writer, surely a plausible event could have been devised! I had a difficult time sinking myself back into the story after having been so blindsided and betrayed by such a bizarre turn.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2013

    So many words, so little to enjoy

    I've enjoyed books by Ms. Oates in the past, and looked forward to reading the Falls. The story had promise, but most of the content of the book was beyond tedious. The primary character was self absorbed and impossible to care for. So many words to describe so little action.
    I slogged through to the end hoping for some closure. Nope. None, none at all. Just lots of words, and no real finish.
    Avoid this book, there's too many better books out there.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2013

    Recommend

    The story was a good one, but very graphic with death details. At first, I liked the female character, but 1/2 way through the book, I didn't like her very much at all. Also, it was hard to like her husband and her children. The "falls" was a good lesson in history, but I have to like my characters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2013

    Joyce carol Oates writes so well

    If you have read Joyce Carol Oates before you know what to expect. She writes beautifully. Her characters are extremely well developed. And the story is generally depressing, as is this multigenerational one of a family that lives their lives in thr shadow of Niagara Falls.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2013

    Very hard to read! Very hard ti Very hard to read

    The only reason I finished reading it was because I had already paid for it and I didn't want to waste my money.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2012

    Great book

    Joyce Carol Oates is my favorite author. She writes with depth and elegant prose. This is not a beach read. You have to commit.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2012

    Interesting

    The flow of the book was a little different. You were introduced to the nuances of a characters one by one. It was an interesting story but I didn't love it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2006

    A very nice suprise

    I really enjoyed this book. The writing is beautiful. Interesting story line, well developed characters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2014

    Great novel

    Very thoughtful novel. The relationships between characters were intriging an dinsightful. The fine thread that held them all together was surprising

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2013

    Oates never disappoints

    Always enjoy oates. Digs deep into the murkiness of the human soul and pulls out the best along with the worst. If you like easy reads do not bother. Her books are pschological probers. Makes you think about life and human nature

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