Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson -- Book Review


Wow---so much great information and so many emotions to deal with! 

I've been on a Victorian/Edwardian literature kick for a couple years now so when I saw this on paperbackswap.com, I had to request it---even though gory murder is just not my thing. I love reading about America's Gilded Age and one event that really defines this time in our history is the Chicago World's Fair. 

This book is really two stories in one. One track features every single detail you could ever want to know about the planning, building, executing, and aftermath of the Fair. The second track is the story of a lunatic murderer and how he was able to gruesomely kill LOTS of people right under the noses of authorities who were too wrapped up in the Fair's events to notice.

It's shocking how many crimes were committed due to the ease of being anonymous. While today's process of registering, confirming, double-checking, etc. of ID infuriates me sometimes, this story has given me an appreciation for the practice of making sure people really are who they say they are. The stories of Holmes' victims were so sad---many naive women who came to Chicago with such hope. It just blows my mind that police had little or no suspicions about him for as long as they did. It makes me worry about my own daughter who is getting ready to step out into independence.

The story of the Fair took awhile to really get in to. I enjoyed it much more once people and exhibits began arriving. Many of my 19th century favorites made an appearance: Houdini, Tesla, Edison, and Helen Keller---who doesn't show up very often in modern literature. There were also some neat notes and stories about the origin of the Pledge of Allegiance, pancake mix, the zipper, the Ferris Wheel, and more. Several things surprised me---like the limits and penalties for photography. 

These were stories that will definitely stick with me for a long time. 

2 comments:

  1. I read this book several years ago, and you're right. It does stay with you! I also read Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson, about the 1900 hurricane in Galveston, TX. I don't know if you've read that, but I think you'll like it.

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  2. i like your review it is very honest and to the point. i was wondering if i should read the book. but i am going to read it nonetheless. i hope i can work on something here

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