rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is the story of how the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (aka The White City) came to be and how a serial killer (best guess is that Holmes killed at least 200 people) used the fair as a replenishing resource of young women new to Chicago and its dangers. Erik Larson relies on the facts to carry out his ambitious project, for not only does he focus on the chief architect of the fair, Daniel Burnham, he also spends time with Dr. H.H.Holmes the serial killer, as well as the forces and culture of late nineteenth century America. What I found fascinating about this book was all of the "Forrest Gump" moments, meaning all of these great people (Buffalo Bill, Frank Lloyd Wright, Susan B. Anthony, Archduke Francis Ferdinand) converged on the fair at the same time and new innovations (spray paint, the Ferris wheel, AC/DC current, Shredded Wheat) were introduced at the fair. What was also neat was learning that Walt Disney and L. Frank Baum used the White City as inspiration for for their creative worlds.
"Devil in the White City" was my book club's first book of the year and although we mostly gave it 3 out of 5 stars, we felt that Larson adopted too much of a newspaperly tone, rather than a narrative one. We were expecting this book to read more like a Jon Krakauer book, but instead we got more of a history textbook. Now it wasn't dry in all places and Larson definitely has a sense of humor, but this book should have provided more invented dialogue and less direct quotes to give it more of a flow.
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