The Devil in the White City (Unabridged)
by Erik Larson
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In a thrilling narrative showcasing his gifts as storyteller and researcher, Erik Larson recounts the spellbinding tale of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The White City (as it became known) was a magical creation constructed upon Chicago's swampy Jackson Park by Daniel H. Burnham, the famed architect who coordinated the talents of Frederick Olmsted, Louis Sullivan, and others to build it. Dr. Henry H. Holmes combined the fair's appeal with his own fatal charms to lure scores of women to their deaths. Whereas the fair marked the birth of a new epoch in American history, Holmes marked the emergence of a new American archetype, the serial killer, who thrived on the very forces then transforming the country. In deft prose, Larson conveys Burnham's herculean challenge to build the White City in less than 18 months. At the same time, he describes how, in a malign parody of the achievements of the fair's builders, Holmes built his own World's Fair Hotel - a torture palace complete with a gas chamber and crematorium. Throughout the book, tension mounts on two fronts: Will Burnham complete the White City before the millions of visitors arrive at its gates? Will anyone stop Holmes as he ensnares his victims?
If you're on the fence...
... about buying the unabridged over the abridged version (or, as much as I hate to entertain the thought, about buying the book at all), get off immediatey, stop reading this review, and purchase the full- blown version. But if you're into reading, I'll humor you: Every line of this book is captivating. The juxtaposition of the "devil's" story and the story of Burnham's "White City" creates an entertaining, interesting, and suspenseful dialectic on the Exposition and on America at the turn of the last century. The accounts, facts, and even quotes from various people of the era provide a complex, linear narrative as in a great novel. However, every single word of the book is derived from documented sources, an incredible testament to Larson's research into the Columbian Exposition and his storytelling prowess. When I completed this story, I was left with an (as yet) insatiable desire to know everything I could about the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (though I'd wager most of what you could find is somewhere in the book) and an irrational sense of regret for not having been there or having known about the Fair previously.
Gripping book that reads like a novel
This was a great book that was extremely easy to listen to, both because of Larson's smooth writing style and a solid narration.
It presented interesting facts about both Chicago and the United States at the end of the the 19th Century while telling 2 seamlessly woven stories anchored by the World's Columbian Exposition.
I highly recommend this book!
An excellent novel, in equal parts historical and horrifying
Skillfully split between two stories - the building of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the evil machinations of one of America's first serial killers - the quality of the sotrytelling is highlighted by the fact that both narratives are as engaging as the other. For example, learning the history of the Ferris Wheel was as enthralling as learning the ways by which Holmes disposed of his victims' bodies. This will make a fantastic movie in the future so let's hope Leonard DiCaprio's company does it the justice it deserves.