What a terrific story. The story was so captivating that I kept forgetting this was a true story. If you have any interest in architecture, landscape, pop culture, history, or crime, this book will grab you and you won't want to hit the stop button.
My only complaint is that the ending seemed forced and didn't quite fit with the flow of the rest of the book.
Enjoyed this audio book... the history is amazing. Switching back and forth from the details of the construction of the Chicago World's Fair and a serial killer embedded within the mosaic of every-day life maintained my interest enough that I finished the book in several days. The details of inventions introduced at the times and the details of prominent (and not so well known) architects and inventors kept me busy figuring out who was who and what was what... but the return to the serial killer kept me grounded. The rich history embedded in the book was an education. My first audible book. GREAT... gonna get more!
Completely entertaining and educational. The dual plots - Construction of the Chicago World's fair and the building of the mass murderers' lair - kept the action moving. I thought the handling of the mass murderer's exploits was very well done. The author gave a very clear picture of the "devil" and his horrors without obsessing on the blood and gore. It was just the right touch for this reader.
The first half of this book was mildly interesting, but since I had never heard of the White City before, held little interest for me. The passages about Holmes, the psychopath of the tale, were morbidly fascinating, and kept me going through the stretches of getting the City gardens just so. By the second half, I was getting more interested in the City. It was actually sounding pretty good, and had some excitement with the setbacks encountered along the way. By the time the closing of the Exposition was chronicled, I wished I could somehow visit it and see the City and all its wonders for myself. The Holmes investigation at the end was very creepy. It was night and dark in my house, and I had to take a break until daylight! Very good and all the better for being non-fiction. The abridged version may have been better for me if it keeps all the Holmes sections, yet still captures the wonder of the Exposition.
This is not the type of book that I usually listen to but I found it totally absorbing. The two stories were educational and entertaining at the same time. I would never have experienced this book if it had not been for Audible! Thanks
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in history, technological invention, engineering, architecture, construction, human accomplishement against great adversity, and crime. Fascinating juxtapositioning of the best man can accomplish set against the darkest of our nature. I loved this book.
This was a very entertaining and informative audiobook. The reader is excellent and the prose as read very entertaining. The best characteristic of this book is the gradual and deliberate development of the parallel stories the author is telling. The plots are interesting and the author interrelates them well. There is one potential fault. The author went into considerable detail in developing the story of the Columbian Exposition and I suppose he felt he needed to add a lot of detail concerning the activities of the fiend Holmes as well. Since I can do without the gruesome details of the murders (particularly the way he dealt with the bodies), I simply tune out that part of the book. These portions are really very short and those who want to listen to those parts will probably find them interesting. I judge audiobooks as good or excellent when I look forward to continuing my listening and when I am sure that I am following the book over the period of time it takes to finish the book. This one meets those criteria and therefore it is a "5."
My Dad recommended this book to me years ago and I've finally gotten around to it. This is a "stranger than fiction" account of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair which was known as the Colombian Exposition. It is also the story of all the culture and horror swirling around the fair in that era. The book covers everything from a serial killer who may be the archetypal psychopath, the assassination of the mayor of Chicago, the great architects of the age, to where Cracker Jack came from. The 1st Columbus Day was celebrated during the fair, the first Ferris Wheel created for the fair, and labor laws in America changed as a result of the fair. For range of coverage, this book is amazing. For level of intrigue and depth of detail, equally amazing. Well documented, well written and as always, I am amazed I didn't know this stuff. I would imagine that not being familiar with the fair would be as unimaginable to a person of that day as meeting someone who didn't know about the Moon landing would be in our age. This was big.
In college I took a course on American Architecture and how it reflects culture and the ideologies and world views of the people of the various times. Reading Larson's book, I recognized dozens of names and new building mentioned as well as events around the fair and the period, but the book was full of revelations and connections for me.
I would like to mention that stylistically, while parts of the book were amazing, I was put off by one device. Larson seemed to make glancing reference to multiple events which he seemed to assume the reader would know. I thought it was presumptuous and I felt silly for not knowing what he was talking about. However, in the last part of the book, he fills in all blanks and rather than being annoying, it became obvious that he was beginning with the end and had left off explicate detail so he could refer back at the end of the book. As the book closed, all was forgiven and what seemed awkward in the beginning became an elegant even clever closing.
Excellent book. I've read some really well written narrative history this year, so Larson had some hard acts to follow. Never the less, Larson held his own. I would highly recommend this book. A murder/thriller/detective story, an adventure in creation and the realization of an architectural dream, a chronicle of an event that changed the world and a portrait of America as she approached the 20th Century. I particularly liked the very last reflection on writing this book--Larson's comments on his sources and the joy of historical research. I was taken back to days in the Yale University Sterling Library Archives sorting through 18th century sermons and letter while doing my own thesis. Larson is a first class historian and story teller.
The depth the author goes into about the fair in Chicago is amazing. I would put this book up there with books by Dan Brown.
This story of how the Chicago World's Fair came to be was full of exciting history and atmosphere. I learned that much of what we have today is traceable back to that fair. The juxtaposed story of the serial killer is also increadibly interesting. The whole book is full of facts; names, dates and places, so I couldn't imagine wading through all this by actually reading it. Listening to it was a pleasure.