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)
In general, I love reading (and hearing)about historical events and people. This book wasn't what I expected at all. It was too wrapped up in detail about the fair. I got lost on who was who. Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention, but this book definitely was not for me. If you love detail, this is it.
I thought this book was poorly written. It felt like the author included every piece of research he uncovered no matter how irrelevant to the story. Adding these details made many parts drag on monotonously and killed any build up of suspense or excitement.
I enjoyed this book but it is not a mystery, it is more of a historical novel of the Columbia exposition and as a side note an early serial killer. No mystery there. I am not quite sure how this book won an award.
What could have been a fascinating book is just plain drudgery in large sections, mainly because there's not much to work with here except the author's imagination. Ordinarily that would be enough, of course, but in this case, the Eric Larson attempts more than a work of fiction and therefore fails.
Where there are hard historical records to go on, namely, the creation of the Chicago "Columbian Exposition" in 1893, they are dry facts, indeed. Whole chapters are devoted to obtaining permission to build, the politics of obtaining permission, and the private lives of otherwise uninteresting and tangential characters. The best Larson can offer here is some interesting name-dropping, but there are no huge names to make you rush to listen to this book.
The facts are skinniest when Larson tries to describe the nefarious activities of Henry Holmes, Chicago's own Jack the Ripper. This would have been interesting if it weren't for the fact that Larson has to make up most of the dialog, events and even actual facts about which he writes, because Holmes didn't leave any eye witnesses.
Larson would have been better off to write a "based on true events" TV crime drama.
even though this is the most boring read ever. The other reviews gave it high praise so I might be missing the point totally. It's just droning on and on........
One reviewer wrote that listening to this audiobook was like watching paint dry. Actually, it was much, much worse. I listen to audiobooks all the time and this is the first one I simply could not finish. The premise is an interesting one - a murderer running rampant in historical Chicago. Sounds exciting, right? Unfortunately the majority of the book focuses on the mundane details of the exposition - the plants used in the landscaping, the layout of every building, the number of workers, etc. Much is said about the architects and other key figures, but none of the characters engage in dialogue; it is a recitation of events told in the most annoying monotone I've ever heard. Even the part about the murderer is boring. Save yourself the time and just Google the title. If you're looking for a great audiobook, listen to The Pillars of the Earth.
This is basically a history book and not a well written one. Most of it is an historical account of the Chicago Exposition, so to make the history palatable the, the concurrent story of Dr. H.H. Homes is woven into the novel. Both threads represent stories which, in themselves, have a great deal of interest. But the history of the Worlds Fair is drawn out ad infinitum and the Holmes story is poorly written while the suspense is lost in the endless interruptions for more history lessons. Bad idea - poor execution - even if we all love Scott Brick. As for the poeple who raved about it, I just don't understand.
It was indeed amzaing to learn about the accomplishments in Chicago for the worlds fair and the first serial killer in the US. But I can't say the book kept me coming back. Almost no tales of history do.
I am only 9 hours in and it has taken so long to listen to it. I really would like more about Holmes than I am getting. There is WAY too much about the World's fair. For every 5 minutes of Holmes we get 2 1/2 hours of VERY intricately detailed information about the behind the fair scene. I would not recommend this to anyone unless they wanted to know more about the fair.
The author either had a page quota or a fascination with historical detail that exceeded mine.
This book tells a fairly interesting story, and provides a lot of the background information about the Chicago Fair which was also interesting. In my opinion, though, a good editor could have greatly improved this book by cutting out around 25% of it.
It was an OK read -- and I didn't have anything else -- but many of the long and rambling introspections of the main characters could have been omitted. I kept saying to myself, "Get on with it! You've already told me what they thought and how they felt. I don't need to hear it over and over again."
Not a bad book. Not a good one, either.
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