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)
This book is creepy to read, but fascinating. It justaposes the wonders of the 1892 Columbian Exposition with a conscience-less serial murder, both of which are remarkable in many ways. Recommend if you have an interest in technology, architecture, and/or project planning, or crime (and have a strong stomach).
I absolutely was enthralled in this book! It captivated my interest so much that I purchased a couple of more books on the Chicago World's Fair. An absolute must read for anyone who appreciates history!
Since I finished listening to this a few months ago I have brought up stories about it many, many times. It is the best book I've heard or read in a long time. And I read a lot.
Recently I bought two hard copies at a bookstore to give away. The book is so fascinating. So many developments and inventions are still influencing our lives! I'd list them, but that would give away some of the stories.
The story keeps you listening. And, the book is based on hard facts. The author lists his research and credits at the end.
I don't often write reviews, but this book just had to be praised online, not just to everyone I see in person.
I normally don't read non-fiction. I listen to books on tape (or electronic format) while I drive, and I prefer mindless entertainment. I'm a fan of mysteries. I got this book because my husband (we commute together) really wanted to read it. I was surprised to find that I loved it! There was a great mystery/thriller "plot" alongside a fascinating historical account of the Chicago World's Fair. It made our most recent trip to Chicago much more meaningful to know so much of the history of the city.
Seldom does an Audible choice provide such a complete package: great writing, outstanding reader, and a story based on real events that reads like fiction. Larson brings characters from the Gilded Age to life. They'd all - even Holmes! - be very pleased with Larson's "resurrection." Four stars.
About the best audible book I've ever read. Really looked forward to getting back on the road to hear more. Don't be thrown by what the book's about....It's as good as they come.
Anne in Happy Valley
I enjoyed the book immensely but am still wondering why Larson dwelled so often on arcana (i.e., reciting the full menus of so many architect dinners) while shortchanging the reader on descriptions of the fair exhibits (I mean besides the 'danse de vente' -- didn't he seem a little fixated on that?). For example, that manufacturers' building -- after he told us about it falling down 5 or 6 times, you'd think he'd reward us by telling us what they actually managed to exhibit in there. Or did I miss that -- sometimes my Otis garbles or skips a passage.
Putting my love which knows no bounds for the City of my childhood aside, I cannot begin to recommend this read enough. I know now that I love the City of Chicago for reasons that cannot be put into words, though this book comes very close to presenting that feeling all Chicago-ans feel, even after they leave, which inexplicably demands that they say, "I'm from Chicago," and smiling as though that were simply enough, no further explanation needed. The details are extrordinary, and the additional information about the World's Fair buildings still standing, or dedicated to those who determined to see it through were facinating, leaving no stone unturned, nor any question unanswered. Though the 'Devil" in question was clearly blood-thirsty, it became difficult to determine who, within this historical group of players, was really devilish, the serial killer gone unchecked, or those that determined that the World's Fair would come off despite the obsticles, personal losses, and the peripheral destruction. Was it all worth it, the lives lost or shattered, ruined beyond satisfaction, is the question that still remains in the end for this reader. That any future visit to Chicago will now forever be altered, skewed with details and information, is a certainty, delightfully educational even, though my love still remains firmly ensconced in my DNA. I cannot recommend this book enough. You must run, run, run, right this second, and obtain it.
This was one of the best audio books I've ever listened to. The narration was superb and the story was riveting. An indication of how good this book was is that it left me wanting to learn more about the time and events depicted. Also, this is not the generally the type of book my wife would listen to but she enjoyed it so much that she recommended the book to her Book Club and they will be reading it this fall.
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