Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Book:  The Devil in the White City 

Author:  Erik Larson 

Grade A- 

Recommended To:  All Chicago Lovers! 

Ok, I can't give this book an A because if I give too many of those out this blog just becomes a bunch of books that I like and not a serious book review blog.  Also, I had some issues with it, but we'll get to those in a sec.  Otherwise, I completely loved it.  There were shocking moments, laugh-out-loud moments, and really endearing moments.  Overall it was an incredibly honest assessment of Chicago's performance during the "fair that changed the world." 

This book had two parallel stories that probably belonged in different books, but both stories were well presented and very well researched.  First, of course, there is the story of the construction and planning for the 1893 World's Fair that was hosted by Chicago.  This story follows the main architect Daniel Burnham and his quest to change the world with his fair.  What I really liked about this book were the references to Chicago - you find out at the end that one of the Fair's buildings was turned into the Science and Industry museum!  Awesome!

I also thought there were some really funny parts in the book.  For example one of the exhibits, the Algerians, arrived at the Fair an entire year ahead of schedule!  Plus, there are all sorts of fun and goose-bump-inducing suspenseful moments, like where the author doesn't reveal the name of the creator of the most impressive structure at the fair until far into the novel.  If you've ever seen a poster for the World's Fair, you know it is the Ferris Wheel, but it so fun to be "surprised."

The second story that this book follows is the story of H. H. Holmes who was a doctor/mass murderer of women.   He was completely creep-tastic and his story was enthralling especially because he was so clever in hiding the fact that he killed anyone.   The one issue I had with this book was that the stories seemed disconnected.  The only similarity between the stories was the fact that they happened at the same time.  

If you live in Chicago this is a must read.  It is so exciting to hear about Graceland Cemetery, the Lakeshore, the Ferris Wheel, and the L in a city that is often dissimilar to the one we live in today.  This was a very powerful work and I rediscovered "pleasure reading" when I read it.

Happy Reading! 

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