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?
© 2003 Erik Larson; (P) 2003 Books on Tape, Inc.
"A hugely engrossing chronicle of events public and private." (Chicago Tribune)
"Vivid history of the glittering Chicago World's Fair and its dark side." (New York Magazine)
"Both intimate and engrossing, Larson's elegant historical account unfolds with the painstaking calm of a Holmes murder."(Library Journal)
I'm late catching this book, but am I ever glad that I finally acted on my friends' recommendations. If you're interested in 20th century American history -- or simply in histories and the ways their elements interact -- I can't see you going wrong with this one.
Who knew a history of the early 20th century in Illinois could bring together Mark Twain, cracker jack, Susan B. Anthony, Gentelman Jim Corbett, Woodrow Wilson, Shredded Wheat, Frank Lloyd Wright, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Clarence Darrow, Walt Disney, Theodore Dreiser, Leopold & Loeb, the electric chair, the ferris wheel, and even the Keeley Gold Cure.
It's a well read tale, a fascinating examination of "the fair that changed America," chock full of surprising information.
Excellent work of history. So many fascinating details and great character studies. Very worth the time invested.
These intersecting stories about the building of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and a serial murderer are equally riveting and work perfectly together. The book is both entertaining and educational; a fascinating slice of American history!
This is one of those books that even though it might not be a favorite book, it's one you are glad you read. I really never knew anything about the Chicago fair or the Farris wheel. After listening to the book, I looked up the old pictures on the computer...just amazing.
Although the book was an excellent book about the Worlds Fair. Title and blurb about the book was a little missleading. The book was more about the worlds fair than about the "devil". I expected details concerning H.H. Holmes. Instead I was given amazing insight into the construction and the logistics of designing and building the 1892 worlds fair. This book would have been better if it had been title The White City and dropped the devil part.
This was a most unexpected "read". The story of the Chicago World's Fair surprised me. I knew of the Fair, but the impact of this place and time on the history of the United States was amazing. I never had given any thought to the origins of the Ferris wheel and the amusement parks of today. Fascinating....
Also, I had never heard of HH Holmes... grusome as his deeds were, it was a compelling story. I think that the fact that it really happened was the strangest twist.
I am so glad Scott Brick narrated this unabridged version. I am glad I didn't opt for the abridged version, I would not have wanted to miss a single word.
The book in set in Chicago during the late 1800's and covers the World's Fair, politics of the day, architecture and murder. Overall I rated the book as three stars. At times it is very, very slow (I have listened to The History of Rome Vol I and II and believe me when I say I know slow). However the author has done a good job of describing the events of the day and I believe the actual book has photos that would help the reader get a sense of what he's talking about (which is of no use in an audio format).
If you are looking for a suspense novel this one isn't for you. If you want a book with history and a little intrigue then I would recommend it. Happy Listening
Someone should make a movie of this book. I am listening to it for the second time. The narration was excellent! The Guilded Age is fascinating and the author's account of the Exposition and the maniac was VERY well done. I look forward to more of his work. History and high mystery - it doesn't get any better than this.
This book was fascinating! As a life long resident of Chicago, I found this book to be a must read. It lead to a wealth of emotions from pride in the "Chicago spirit" which accomplished and continues to accomplish great things to the disgust at the lax manner in which human life was treated at that time. Contrary to what some reviewers wrote, I found the detail to paint a rich and deep picture of that time that reflected the spirit and mood of the Era, not only in Chicago, but the country as well. Highly recommended!
This was my first entry into the land of audiobooks and I picked a gem. The author makes what could have been a dry and difficult read into an interesting and exciting narrative. He moves through the complex of lives touched by the events surrounding the 1993 Columbian Exhibition seamlessly. It delves into such varied areas as architecture, engineering, landscaping, city management, politics, social structure and forensic and criminal investigation, showing how each connects to the story and holding the interest of the reader thoughout. The narration of the book is clear and easy to listen to. All in all an excellent audiobook!
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