I could have just ignored the non fiction aspect and enjoyed the story, if not for Larson s habit of getting bogged down in inconsequential details He seemed to throw facts or conjectured facts in whenever the fancy struck him, rather than keeping the story moving.
And finally, I got annoyed with the jumping back and forth between Holmes s story and the architecture Worlds Fair story Just when I d get into one, we d switch to the other He could have done a better job of interweaving those.
So, since my curiosity is piqued, but not enough to continue reading this book, I m just going to do some Wikipedia reading and call it good.
Overwhelmingly underwhelming 1893 was a year to remember the World s Fair came to Chicago and H H Holmes one of America s most famous serial killers took full advantage He stalked the streets and murdered whomever he pleased.
I really liked the idea of this one to take one of America s greatest triumphs and splicing his story along with one of the greatest horrors However There s too high of a disconnect between these two sides This reads like two separate books thrown together at inopportune moments as soon one half got the least bit exciting, we d swap It was frustrating and ultimately exasperating to read The World Fair section was interesting in its own right, but it paled so much in comparison to the serial killer that it became something to slog through For the World s Fair we see the entirety of its creation and eventual destruction Ample page space was given to dissecting every single mind numbing detail.
Roughly half the book was wasted on petty squabbles about the building paint, boats in the harbor and the landscaping I finally understand how my mother can fall asleep while reading Then, once I nodded off between 2 3 times, we d jump to the insane murderer But, there was a huge disconnect regarding page space The longer the book went on, the shorter those H H Holmes sections would be towards the end, we d only get we d get 1 to 10 pages from H H Holmes perspective for every couple chapters of building plans Fabulous.
The two main stories weren t entirely separate they did tangentially intersect notably H H Holmes managed to lure so many people into his hotelbecause of the fair and hedidtake one of his victims to the fair but those connections did not seem strong enough for a joint book.
While I appreciate the time and effort it took to research such a complete account of 1893, I had a hard time enjoying the novel It felt like of a mess than anything Popsugar 2018 Reading Challenge A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn t get toBlog Instagram Twitter Humour me and please allow the channeling an eighth grader for just a moment OMG Squeee 1 Teh best Would an eighth grader say teh best And now we return you to our regularly scheduled review.
I m not a huge fan of non fiction Scratch that I m a huge fan of non fiction, but not so huge a fan of reading non fiction While I appreciate learning and broadening my understanding of the world around and as it once was, I find myself pretty quickly distracted from whatever non fictional work I pick up The fact is most writers of non fiction are experts in their field of study than they are expert authors They deliver the goods well, but aren t quite as adept at prettying them up for consumption.
Erik Larson, however, is a genius Or something I could not put this book down In the figurative sense it actually took me about two weeks to read The entire length of my time in this book was marked with moments of in which I would stop reading, interrupt my wife from the depths of her studies, and remark again how good this book was I m sure that she would have been happier had Larson just been your average purveyor of non fictionalizations In The Devil in the White City, Larson chronicles chiefly a tale of two city dwellers Architect, Daniel Burnham and pharmacist, Henry Holmes One would helm the creation of a wonderland of awe striking beauty and refinement The other would become one of America s earliest and most diabolical serial killers All this against the backdrop of the 1893 World s Columbian Exposition a.
a the Chicago World s Fair.
Daniel Burnham, the self made architect, who designed the Rookery in Chicago would design the Flatiron Building in New York, assembled a team of the best American architects of the day for the task of crafting a World s Fair in Chicago that would be even exquisite than the one held in Paris years earlier The Paris Exposition had also unveiled Gustave Eiffel s incredible tower, so Burnham put a call out to American engineering something grander would have to be proposed and built National reputation was at stake as well as civic pride Larson explores in exciting detail the glories and the tragedies of this great endeavor.
In contrast to this paean to human ingenuity and spirit, Larson focuses the other half of his narrative on a man as diligent in his chosen task as Burnham was in his H.
H Holmes, the self style pharmacist, who killed upwards of twenty seven mostly young women, fresh to the city , built for himself a hideous parody of the grand buildings that the world would soon celebrate Bit by bit, he crafted what would later be known as his murder castle, a hotel whose ground floor hosted several businesses and whose other floors would boast far sinister use The second and third floors contained numerous rooms and hallways and secret compartments and switches Airtight rooms with gas outlets Walk in vaults purpose not for keeping out but for keeping in And a slicked chute to the basement where a kiln, acid, and limepits awaited Holmes was handsome and charming in a way that made him irresistible to women He was also a psychopath who would turn the American attention far too late.
Larson, as a chronicler, is top notch He entertains even as he educates And he leaves just enough narrative tension to compel the reader along his path Larson knows how to keep enough information back to avoid rendering the latter half of his book naught but excruciating anti climax The Devil in the White City is certainly an accomplishment and I wouldn t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.
If forced to, I will admit two quibbles with the book 1 I was thirsty for pictures and wanted desperately to see these buildings that Burnham and company were so busied upon and 2 on the whole Larson keeps his voice clean of any emotive spots not merited by the characters themselves, but there were two moments when I was sure I was hearing Larson s voice beam through it could have been worse at least those two moments were funny note see what I did there You didn t actually have to force me.
The White City rises above the lake like a fantasy from another time that never existed but the eyes do not deceive this image is real, bright lights glow at night and millions of respectful , quiet, mesmerized people look and walk by, the moon shines and reflects on the gigantic white buildings and glittering waters, magic drapes allThe Chicago World s Fair of 1893 arguably the greatest one in history, the citizens of this metropolis the second city of the nation need to show everyone that they are than hog killers, with speeding trains and prosperous businessmen , this is a sophisticated town particularly to arch rival New York In a short while after winning the contest to hold this extravaganza beating St Louis, Washington and the big enemy New York City for the honor from Congress the next step yes committees , Americans love them they multiply like rabbits but get in the way of progress At long last emerging from countless delays, officially named the World s Columbian Exposition to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus s discovery of America, in 1492, but its six months run will start a year later in 1893 A leading Chicago architect Mr Daniel Burnham and his partner John Root are chosen for the enormous job to build it, but also residing in the overcrowded fast growing, violent, dirty city Dr Herman Webster Mudgett alias one of many H.
H Henry Holmes, America s first well known serial killer The two will never meet but their stories will make headlines around the globe Mr Burnham task seems impossible, made worse when his closest friend in business and in private life dies John Root, the committees don t and can t make decisions days pass still nothing is being accomplished, at last the authority is granted him to be the boss, Burnham Make no little plans they have no magic to stir men s blood Slowly things begin to appear on a grand scale the white, all the same color huge, electrified buildings soaring into the sky, the scary, new Ferris Wheel will take you there if it is ever built, lagoons are made islands formed canals dug the waters come from sparkling Lake Michigan, boats follow, the ugly, empty Jackson Park begins to fill, something special even at this early stage is feltDr.
Holmes likes pretty young women , just off farms and small towns, the feelings are mutual he pays attention to their every word, looks into their eyes, touches them gently the handsome, soft, well spoken con man has plenty of charm few are not enad, wealthy too, owner of the strange rather gloomy, with mysterious odors the World s Fair Hotel nicknamed The Castle , he keeps marrying the women a real lady killerbut will murder men too This nonfiction book is very entertaining and always informative, you can imagine yourself back to the spectacular, enormously successful , thrilling, magical fair the numerous attractions in hundreds of buildings, from the very popular, exotic , belly dancers to the unsuitable Buffalo Bill s Wild West Show , he made a fortune just outside the exposition grounds , they don t make this kind any.
For me, reviewing this book is similar to trying to review any Nicolas Cage movie from the past 20 years, in that if I was asked if Cage s over the top performance was the best thing or the worst thing about the movie, I could only answer Yes Pictured one of Nicolas Cage s subdued performances Not pictured sanity If you were to ask me my favorite thing about this book, I would immediately answer, Erik Larson s writing style This book is mostly talked about for the portions pertaining to one of America s first serial killers, Dr H H Holmes In fact, when the greenlit movie adaptation by Martin Scorsese was recently announced, it focused primarily on the casting of Holmes Yet, time is spent in the book detailing the history of the 1893 World s Fair, particularly architect Daniel Burnham s struggles in trying to get everything finished in time for the Fair s opening I m actually not much of a history buff, so I feared thetrue crimelesssegments of the book wouldn t hold my interest, but I m happy to announce that I was wrong Larson s wit made even some of the dryer parts of the novel entertaining, and he even manages to build suspense when he s raising questions we may already know the answer to, like what engineering marvel would the Fair s organizer s decide on to hopefully rival the Eiffel Tower unveiled at France s world fair As for the segments detailing Dr H H Holmes and his grotesque crimes, this is where Larson s writing really shines Instead of treating this strictly as a historical accountand then this happened, and then this happened , Larson actually writes these moments in the style of a thriller He gets into Holmes head with the same prowess that Thomas Harris used to make Hannibal Lecter continue to chill our bones long after we had put the book down There were times I almost forgot I was even reading a nonfiction book, as in these moments Larson s novel read like something we d expect to find in the horror section.
Which is why if you were to ask me what my least favorite thing about this book was, I would immediately answer, Erik Larson s writing style Bet you didn t see that coming, eh That was a twist right out of an M Night Shyamalan movie This clip is from Robot Chicken and led to What A Twist becoming a running joke on the show If you already knew that, you are officially as cool as me Whether you take that as a compliment or a reason to start sobbing is completely up to you While Larson s writing during the Holmes segments was undeniably gripping, I felt he went a little overboard with his speculative approach He describes what was going through the victims heads moments before Holmes murdered them, things Larson has no way of knowing were actually true This did take me out of the book quite a few times, as when I m reading nonfiction and the author keeps adding details that can t actually be confirmed, it make me begin to wonder how true this true crime novel really is I did enjoy reading Devil in the White City , although I would say it s a book for history enthusiasts than true crime fans, as the 1893 World s Fair is clearly the novel s main event, while Dr Holmes is of a sideshow freak Whether you re here for the Fair or the murder castle, Erik Larson s skills as a writer makes this an interesting read, as long as you don t mind getting some chocolate in your peanut butter speculative fiction in your true crime2 and a half hours of fighting over chocolate in peanut butter still a better movie than Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice A fascinating book and an easy read Chapter by chapter, in simple chronological order, the author juxtaposes preparations for the 1893 Chicago World s Fair with the doings of one of the country s first serial murders From the Fair s chapters we learned how Chicago s boosterism won it the fair from other competitors including Washington and New York Construction was last minute and in panic mode, but it got done There s a lot about Frederick Law Olmstead who was in charge of park design but he was elderly, in poor health, and struggling to stay on top of the project A lot of the focus is on the lead architect and fair planner, Daniel Burnham, and construction of the White City, as the classical buildings came to be known The serial killer was H H Holmes, a pharmacist who capitalized on the World s Fair by building a hotel It had special rooms in the basement to kill his victims and dispose of their bodies in a gas oven Mostly his victims were young women but he was an equal opportunity killer, murdering some men and children as well at least 20 victims but maybe many The author spares us most of the gory details Once you get into it, it s hard to believe this story is NON fiction as the author insists on telling us, but all the events really are from diaries, letters, newspapers and police reports Fascinating, with a lot of local color of the Windy City in that era.
His narrative is peppered with the most insignificant, totally unrelated factoids, I suppose because they amused him and he couldn t stand the thought of leaving them out He loves nothing than to set a scene so and so in a Pullman car or a fine dining club, this and that person on an ocean liner, attempting to send a cable to someone on the Titanic merely in order to convey some piece of information totally unrelated to the wholly gratuitous scene As to historical accuracy, doubtless there s a fair bit he does have lots of end notes, and he consulted many historical sources But he also embellishes novelistically in a way that no real historian would ever allow himself to do It s shameful, and shameless He asserts in the text that such and such happened, but if you check the endnotes, it didn t really happen but it could have, he says It was likely, he felt After reading Isaac s Storm, which was also heavily embellished and the endnotes similarly acknowledging such, I don t trust anything this man writes I wash my hands of him.
Poor Erik Larson.
He wanted to write an extensive, in depth look at the 1893 World s Fair, which was a collaboration of some of the greatest creative minds in the country including the guy who designed the Flatiron building in New York and Walt Disney s dad and gave us, among other things, the Ferris Wheel, the zipper, shredded wheat, and Columbus Day The entire venture was almost a disaster, with delays, petty fighting, bad weather, and delays, but it was ultimately a massive success and helped make the city of Chicago what it is today Here s what it must have looked like when Larson pitched his idea for the book Larson And the fair didn t go flawlessly towards the end of the fair, the mayor of Chicago was assassinated by a crazy guy, and there were tons of disappearances over the course of the fair, and a lot of them were probably the work of this serial killer who had opened a hotel near the fairgrounds Editor Wait, serial killer And it s connected to the fair Cool, let s try to include that in the book Also the crazy assassin sounds good, too Larson No, the killer H.
H Holmes really wasn t connected to the fair at all I mean, he used the fair as a way to collect victims, but he would have killed tons of people even without it In fact, after the fair he moved on and kept murdering people, so the fair really didn t have any effect on his methods Editor Doesn t matter How about you alternate between chapters about the fair and chapters about Holmes killing people Larson But I don t really know much about that Nobody does Holmes never admitted to killing all those people, even after the police found human remains in his basement I don t really know any actual details about the killings Editor That s okay, you can just make it up I ll give you some trashy crime novels to read, that ll give you some ideas Now tell me about the assassination Larson He was just some mentally unbalanced person who thought he deserved a position in the mayor s office and shot the guy when he realized it wasn t going to happen But the death cast a pall over the entire closing ceremony of the fair, and it Editor Good, let s sprinkle in some bits about the crazy guy throughout the book, too Now, back to Holmes did he maybe kill somebody at the fair, or did they find a body on the grounds or something Larson No, the Chicago police didn t even notice anything was happening It wasn t until he left Chicago that a detective from another state tracked him down Editor Okay, so we ll make the end of the book about the manhunt for Holmes and his capture Larson What does any of this have to do with the World s Fair Editor Hell if I know You re the writer, not me you figure it out Here s a check Now go make me a bestseller Four stars for the World s Fair stuff, two stars for the pulpy unrelated bullshit.
in 1893, chicago took the world by storm when it hosted the world fair and created the marvel that wasthe white cityand the man behind it all was architect, daniel burnham not far down the street from the fair grounds, there was another man by the name of dr henry holmes who took advantage of those visiting the city by luring women to his hotel and killing them he is considered americas first serial killer so what do these two men have in common other than being in the same city at the same time, absolutely nothing although this book will try to convince you otherwise there honestly isnt anything connecting the two, so i am confused as to why there is so much focus on them both in this i can understand a book about the history and creation of the chicago world fair, and i also get writing a book about the crimes of dr holmes, but putting the two together did not make any sense to me while reading about the building and design of the fair was interesting, its very dense compared to how holmes story is written its almost like an information overload compared to the true crime chapters surrounding dr holmes which is what i was interested in it almost felt like the murders of dr homes were just a fun little fact that was sprinkled throughout a history book about the 1893 world fair so i think the synopsis and title are a little misleading with regard to the focus of this story.
overall, this is quite an educational book its not quite as entertaining as i thought it would be, but very informative nonetheless the gilded age and importance of the world fair isnt something i knew much about, so it was neat to learn about it although, i might try to find another book about dr holmes, as this didnt quite satisfy my interest in him 3.