Friday, October 24, 2014

Book Review: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson


Non-fiction, narrative.  I was a little afraid when I saw the description of this book that it was going to be an all gore account of a serial killer, and it definitely is not.  It does include things that the self-styled H.H. Holmes planned, did, and how things ended up, but it is interspersed with the main story of the city hosting the World Columbian Exposition in 1893, and the men who made it happen, primarily Burnham.  I found out all sorts of fun things I did not know about the fair and the men who made it happen, Olmsted was the grounds planner or "landscape architect" and was furious when people did not treat it as an art form (the man who planned Central Park in NYC), Ferris created his first wheel for the fair, the designer of the Women's Pavilion Sophia Hayden went mad, literally, after so many people told her to muck up her design and throw stuff on it as if it were only a patchwork quilt and not a building.  It was totally worth the read, I highly enjoyed it, one of the better books about the history of Chicago/IL I have read so far, it definitely helps that the author used the narrative non-fiction style to make it feel more like a story.  My only disappointment is that, at least in the eBook version, there are very few pictures in it, a few of the "White City" and one who I believe was supposed to be H.H. Holmes but it was poorly labeled.  I would have liked to have seen images of the people who made these events happen, in addition to the images of their buildings.  I would recommend this to those who like narrative non-fiction, those interested in the history of Chicago,those who love architecture, and those who want to know about H.H. Holmes, considered one of the first known serial killers in the U.S. (he wrote several items, so we have his direct words, creepy man).

And so it goes...
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