Larson takes his readers through the harrowing, planning, building and creation of the 1893 Chicage World's Fair. The Fairgrounds, dubbed The White City because of its so-called beauty, was believed to be impossible to construct due to adverse conditions and time constraints. However, political influence brought to bear decided location, and Fair content. Larson's meticulous research through diaries, police reports and notes, has allowed this otherwise dry litany to come alive. He has successfully drawn a parallel between good and evil intertwined with the development of the Fair. Henry Holmes, (evil) built a hotel in close proximity to the Fair and along with rooms and offices, designed a dissection table, gas chamber and crematorium in which many unsuspecting victims, many of them women, met their fate. Although I am not necessarily a fan of this type of literature, Larson has successfully created a work that held my attention and supplied me with some surprising information (famous names such as Disney connected with the Fair) that I would otherwise not have had knowledge of.
I like books where I learn something true and new. This book certainly provided that opportunity -- from the first Ferris Wheel to Columbus Day to forensics in the late 1800's to Frank Lloyd Wright's beginnings to the perspective of a landscape architect... I loved the details. I could see, smell, and hear the city. I felt the drama of the World's Fair and the horror of the murders. The book was very detailed -- but not excessively so and it was rarely redundant.
On the other hand, this was a difficult book in an auditory format. There were many characters and it would be helpful sometimes to be able to look back to remember who people were.
I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others.
This is a true, but eerie book, and I would recommend those who are afraid of the dark to leave the lights on while listening to this book. The Chicago Worlds Fair of 1893 is the setting. The fair was huge and the story about the fair and the everyday items that come to life in the story. BUT, there is a subplot. One that needs the lights on for the faint of heart. This is about Dr. H. H. Holmes. It is what this man does that is the intrigue of the subplot. Fasten your seatbelts and listen to a well written story of two seemingly unrelated events.
“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” ― Dr. Seuss
I don't understand why this book has such glowing reviews. I guess if you're an architectural aficionado it would be interesting, but I found the long descriptions of architect's dealing with such unique problems as wind velocity, soil depth, etc. to be quite boring. The serial killer was much more interesting - it was amazing what he got away with for so long and that he's not at least as famous as Jack the Ripper - but you have to wade through hours on end of the earlier stuff to get to his intermittent story. I also think I'm the only person who cannot stand Scott Brick's narration; I find him to be annoying and boring at the same time. Too bad I cannot listen to anything else he's done now since he seems to be the most prolific narrator of audio books out there. Anyway, I would say only get this book if you reeeaally like the history of architecture, are reeeaally interested in the city of Chicago, or finding obscure serial killers is a particular fascination.
This book is most interesting in its depiction of the turn-of-the-century Columbian World's Fair in Chicago at the close of the 19th century. It's an engrossing tale about how the world was changed by this enormous event. The details that the author focuses on illuminates the struggle of personalities and physical obstacles that faced those charged to make Chicago's world fair outdo any that had come before. Simultaneously, the story of the murderous Holmes, a psychotic serial killer encamped just near the fair, is chilling due to the fact that the book is based upon the known facts of the real crimes. Unfortunately, the stories of the killer and the World's Fair architechts never dovetail, as we hope they might, and that might have made for a more compelling story. Nevertheless the book is a great read. It succeeds more in the reportage and drama of pulling off such a feat as the Fair, less so in the horror category of the murders. When you listen, go on the internet and look up actual photos of the Columbian Exposition... they exist, and they add quite a visual punch to what you're hearing described in the novel. This reader is great, too, btw. All books he's read have been fun to listen to.
I did not realize this was mostly about architecture and the construction of 19th century America and the Chicago fair, and I probably would not have ordered it had I known. I'm glad I did not know -- I found the work of Burnham and Root, of Olmstead and his vision, fascinating, and I'm enriched for listening to every detail.
The Holmes murder story is deeply compelling, but a bit odd when interlaced with the story of the fair. Still, both stories held my interest throughout, and I couldn't wait to get back to my car to finish.
I do think the book could use some editing, and the reader is a bit of a drone. Still, a surprisingly rewarding book.
The story was captivating, the reading was spot on; the writing was terrific. I wish I had better adjectives to describe the work. I resisted buying it - Historical? ugh. World's Fair?? Come on! Of course there is murder and mayhem...As it turned out, the M & M was the least interesting aspect. I found myself thinking about that damn fair for WEEKS afterwards(!) - spouting details and trivia about its creation to anyone who would listen (the pool of which became smaller and smaller). An absolutely fabulous book. Most highly recommended.
The 1893 Chicago World's Fair , the architect who built it and the serial killer who haunts it. Incredible journalistic writing; reads like a thriller, but chillingly, it is all fact.