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)
Thoughtful, factual, and entrancing. I lost myself daily while listening to this. I can almost picture it.
I struggled to finish this but eventually managed. So many quotes and not enough action. Small amounts of action were hard to listen to. Epilogue was good.
What the book is supposed to be about: H.H. Holmes as per the cover and publisher's description. Clearly, Larson did not have enough information about Holmes for a stand-alone book, so readers are fooled into buying this.
Only after careful review
As it really is: 90% excruciating minutia about the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with tidbits interspersed about Holmes. If I wanted to know every boring detail about the Fair, I could have looked up dissertations through my school's library. The publisher purposefully wrote a enticing descriptor, knowing full well that readers would buy the book expecting a story about Holmes. That is NOT the focus of this book, yet the clever Vintage editor realizes that readers will wade through it anyway. Not appreciated. At all.
This book tells two stories: that of the World's Fair in Chicago and that of a serial killer named H.H. Holmes. While listening to the story of Holmes I was riveted. The Chicago story too is interesting, but I found my mind wandering and I rarely felt a desire to go back and listen to what I missed. Perhaps it would read differently if I read it rather than listened to it. The reader does an excellent job. His deep voice feels appropriate for a Lovecraft horror story, and it is appropriate for a real life serial killer story as well. I do understand that Larsen wants to make a point about evil lurking behind progress, but I still would have liked to see a little more Holmes and a little less architecture.
This book is absolutely excellent, I have the book in hardcopy but with a 9-to-5 I hadn't found the time to read it, all the more reason to buy this audiobook. This is my first time buying a audiobook and I'm very glad I did. The story will keep you entranced throughout, cover to cover.
Honestly the only reason this doesn't get five stars across the board is because the density of information in this book is overwhelming for an audio book at times. There is no ability to skim some of the in depth historical recitations that create a wonderful scene for the story, but aren't as compelling as some of the personal storylines that drive you through the book. Still, it's a really well performed and adeptly written.
I really was disappointing by this book, the story was so much more about the building of the fair than of HH Holmes. I think it would make a good movie, because you could more easily see both story lines and how they tied to together.
Ok I can see how this book would appeal to history buffs. I was more interested in the serial killer story but the majority of the story was spent discussing the building of the world's fair.
Interesting in its own right but not for me. With that being said the research this book took is apparent. The narration was well done.
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