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 think I would probably enjoy listening to Scott Brick read a VCR manual. He is fast without rushing, and he is emphatic without being overly dramatic or fake.
Fascinating account of the Chicago World's Fair and how its construction had astonishing ripple effects across the nation. The Holmes story mixed in is harrowing and disturbing. An exciting mixture of the macabre and hubris. Gave me goosebumps.
I almost quit about a third of the way into the book. I felt like at that point the book spent too much time talking about the architects. However as I went on through the book I begin to appreciate the details of the Columbian exposition as well as the story of HH Holmes. I think it is helpful to google the Columbian exposition of 1893 and look at pictures of the exposition (something you miss with an audible book).It is easy to understand why people were overwhelmed with the beauty of this exposition. I will usually skip the epilogue and notes at the end of a book. However I am glad I listened all the way through those also. It gave me a perspective on the book I hadn't considered. I like the writing and I like the narrator of this book.
I felt that the book was too long. Some of the extraneous details could have been omitted. Overall it was an interesting book however o found my mind wandering when it became overly detailed unnecessarily.
The author included a lot of detailed conversations and situations that did not add much to the overall story, so I felt that many parts were longer and more drawn out than necessary.
I do have a deep appreciation for both history AND architecture, so I enjoyed the detailed descriptions of the Fair's buildings, conception, and design. However, those who plan to listen to this seeking a murder mystery/thriller should know that the serial killer and his story seems to be more of an aside to the story of the World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago World's Fair) itself.
Mudgett's story is definitely interesting and horrific. The author effectively convey's this man's irony: the warmth he exudes from what is actually a very icy being. His story and the many lives he destroyed could have stood on its own in a book solely about him and his victims, but, because his killing spree was surrounded by the Fair (and the Fair was such an enormous undertaking and historic event) the two storylines, at times, seemed to battle one another.
Scott Brick did a great job reading the book, and, while I enjoyed the story overall (the book prompted me to do more research to find photos of the Fair,) I found myself wanting to get to the end in a "ready for the end now" kind of way.
By the way, for those, like me, who were not familiar with the Fair prior to hearing this book, I highly recommend Googlling images of the Fair. The fantastic architecture and sheer scale of this thing is mind-boggling.)
A real life horror story. I was left with a feeling of how on earth could this have happened... but it did! Anyone who loves architecture will enjoy this book as well as anyone enthralled with the workings of the human mind.
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