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)
Reading allows me to travel through time, to visit the world's unique and stunning places, to become somebody I am not... It is glorious.
My daughter was assigned this book as part of her summer reading for her Honor's English class. I got to it first and spent two nights awake until dawn listening in wonder. I expected a murder mystery set in the World's Fair. It was so much more. Really there were two stories running concurrently. We did follow HH Holme and know what he was up to while living in Chicago. There was nothing gruesome -- Mr Larson writes about Holmes' machinations in a straightforward way. For me this mad it feel less sensational and I was glad for the writing style.
The other story interested me further. Following the preparation for, the buildup towards, and the financial consequences of the Fair was fascinating. It allows the reader to understand the culture of our home country at a time more than 100 years in our past. We meet world leaders, owners of the largest businesses, the father of a son who later be known as WALT DISNEY. But we also meet people that some might not recognize. FREDERICK LAW OLMSTEAD played a large role throughout the book. It was fascination t flesh out his life as I knew him only as the designer of Central Park in New York. Interspersed throughout the entire story are came performances. I particularly liked the the short moment shared between Pulham and Helen Keller.
i loved everything about the book -- with one caveat. Really more advice. Don't let your mind wander. You won't want to miss any of the hidden gems.
This might be a good book for someone interested in architecture or deeply interested in how the World's Fair came to be.
I was interested in a story about HH Holmes that did not dwell on the gore so I thought this might be a good one to shed some light on the historical perspective and how it came to fit together so - terribly with him and his 'murder castle'. The story is sprinkled with Holmes' story during the World's Fair but so far [I'm struggling more than 1/2 through] it drones on and on and on in painfully minute detail on the ups and downs of how the fair was built, down the very bolts that hold the buildings together. Even if Holmes was not part of the story, anything else to break away from monotony of architectural and details would have provided some balance. Some nice bits of history here and there but I'm afraid it was a yawn for me.
Audiobook. Erik Larson has written a non-fiction documentation of history in the form of a novel. The story is composed of parallel events, the World’s Fair Columbian Exposition of 1893 and the murders committed by H. H. Holmes. It is a very detailed compilation of both, including in-depth research of Chicago, well known celebratory architects and politicians, in addition to the diabolical and grizzly murders of Holmes.
If you have any interest in the history of Chicago, I highly recommended this award winning book. There is considerable name dropping of famous individuals who were involved in or attended the Fair, some surprising. Did you know that the Disney family was so impressed with the beauty of the “White City” that “The Magic Kingdom may well be a descendant” and L. Frank Baum so dazzled that the fabulous Fair brought to his creativity the emerald city of Oz?
The book is flawlessly read by Scott Brick with the exception of pronouncing the names of a few local Chicago cities. For example, Wilmette isn’t “will meet”, but rather “will met”.
The two stories: one of a intriguing murderer and one of an architect NEVER merge. This is two standalone books pushed together simply because of the time period in which they occur. What's worse is there are 20 pages of architectural history for every one page of the murderer's story. Granted the history was interesting but I didn't appreciate getting tricked into reading it.
If you want a true time period murder mystery try Caleb Carr's "The Alienist."
I have been wanting to read/listen to this book for a while. I did enjoy it but have some pet peeves. I was interested in both the story of the Worlds Fair & in the intrigue of the story of Dr Holmes but did feel that combining the two was a bit of a stretch... The influences of the worlds fair were very interesting, but certainly not as compelling as the other narrative. As far as narration goes, I kept wishing that Edward Hermann was telling me the story. Scott Brick's style seems better suited for mystery than history as he often sounded over emphatic and sinister when it was not called for.
Interesting approach to writing a story. The author takes two "events," and weaves them in and out throughout the book.
Say something about yourself!
If I had been born with a love for fair architecture, I would have loved this book. However I was not. I was looking for a book on crime not the building of "White City" fair so I disliked about fifty percent of this wordy book.
Not much, relief it had an ending.
Some would say so I say no.
This book was flashy but failed to meet up to its title.
Although I loved learning about Chicago and that period of time, the story seemed to drag for me about 2/3 of the way through. The book still surprised me with interesting bits of information, but the momentum of the plot lagged.
You can tell who I am by my reading, or can you?
This is another novel based on real facts created by Erik Larson. It mixes the history of Chicado exibition with the murders of the first serial killer in America. The book is good but it is not better than his other book "In the Garden of Beasts" that I read in 2012. If you like this book you should read that other one.
Professional Disc Golfer from Maine. Fantasy/Epic/War History are the preferred genres.
I won't say that I did not enjoy the book, because I did. It was completely different from what I had been led to believe I was getting myself into though.
After reading the description of the book I thought I was going to be reading a story about a serial killer who was active during the worlds fair and the process by which the fair was built and came to fruition. I had thought there would be a balance in the book, taking time to do justice to both stories. In this I was wrong, the vast majority of the reading was about the worlds fair construction and the more sinister parts of the book took a backseat to the fairs story being told. That's not to say it was a bad thing, the information about the fair was written stunningly and had me wishing I had been able to experience it myself. But I had also been looking for a little bit more action, or intrigue, if you will.
My other problem with the book is that the two stories he tells really have no connection to one another besides they both took place during the time of the worlds fair. It seemed like two different stories all rolled into one with no focus or direction explaining why. And in this I am fairly disappointed. Both stories interesting? Yes. Better served as two different stories? Indeed.
Overall I gave this book a 3 star review, but it still felt like a quilt that was missing its stitches.
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