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 decided to give this book a whirl after reading the author's excellent new title Dead Wake, which also has a suspense thriller feel to it. I loved the author's use of parallel stories juxtaposing two different types of ambition – one extremely morbid, one much more uplifting. The audio performance is excellent and keeps you enrapt!
I am a civil engineer by trade so the detailed technical aspects of this book were a real treat. The story told by the author is highly detailed and encompasses many aspects of a growing industrial America at a pivotal time as it comes into its own. The serial killer aspect is an interesting way to tell the story, drawing on the early industrial revolutionary setting as the stage. All in all 10/10!!!
I'm embarrassed that it took me so long to read this. A detailed account of the development of the World's Columbian Exhibition. A very good historical narrative.
I was disappointed in the book because of the summary. The summary leads you to believe the book is centered around the serial killer of the Chicago Worlds Fair. That is not the case. The book centers around the conception and build of the fair with brief interludes about the disturbed doctor,
The book does a wonderful job describing the architecture and the philosophy behind the designs. It made me think of Ann Rand's "The Fountainhead".
If you remove the parts of the Serial Killer then you are left with a book that is 95% Architecture and Politics and social science.
I do not know. I would have to consider it since I am not sure I can trust a summary of his book.
Say something about yourself!
I'd definitely recommend this. The story is--stories are--incredible and opposite. The "sacred" story tells of human achievement while the "profane" story describes the behavior of an unbelievably evil person.
The book does a really good job providing details so that the listener can easily imagine living in Chicago in the second half of the 19th century--what it was like if you had money, and what it was like if you didn't. I almost hesitate to say it--but details may also be a weakness of the book. I felt that sometimes the inclusion of so many details turned portions of the book into pure lists of information.
Scott's voice is pleasant and clear. I would have like a little faster pace.
Plenty of moments in this book--both sacred (especially passages about Olmstead)--and profane (almost all of the book that wasn't about building the Fair)--moved me.
There are many ways to learn about the events in this book--but if you don't know the story of the Colombian Exposition, or if you don't know the story of H.H. Holmes--start here! And, if you do, listen to this anyway...
The performer was the best thing about this listen. The story could have been 100 times better if it was actually about the title. Even the story about the fair could have been better without all the mundane details.
This book was about so much more than h.h. holmes. there were many details and facts about the design and construction of the white city and of its operations, mistakes and closing. very hiatorical. I felt as though there was something missing about the "devil". left me with questions.
Although some of the outcomes are already known to you, the author builds suspense throughout the novel and makes it exciting read. I highly recommend reading or listening to this novel. P
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