2014 Reading Guide: Devil in the White City

Wednesday, February 5, 2014 | Stamp in My Passport| , |

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I had high hopes for Larson's tale of Chicago leading up to the World's Fair, and it did not disappoint. And as I flipped through the last thirty or so pages and realized just how many footnotes and references are included, my appreciation and love for the book grew even more. It would have been a terrifying and awe-inspiring tale even if he had embellished the story here and there. But to know that all of the minute details were thoroughly researched and woven into a narrative seamlessly was nothing short of perfection.

To give a little background, Devil in the White City follows the architects and their lofty ambitions to design and organize the Columbian Exhibition, and to make sure that it surpassed the previous world's fair in Paris (when the Eiffel Tower was built.) Despite egos, lack of a solid foundation and the creation of unions, and union strikes, you wouldn't believe that they would be able to pull the grand scheme off, especially in the two years they had to complete the plan. Chicago had much to prove to the east coast cities, especially New York. Chicago wasn't refined, it's main industry was the Union stock yard, to the east coast there was no culture in Chicago. They didn't believe that the most innovative architectural minds could possibly come from Chicago. And by some miracle, Daniel Burnham and John Root achieved the seemingly impossible.

And through all of this, one man almost got away with one of the largest serial killings in our nation's history.

Larson could have done a better job at piecing the narrative together in the beginning. I had a hard time keeping up with all of the different architects and felt like the storyline went back and forth too much. However, once all of the story lines converge at the start of the fair, you won't want to put the book down.

I did love the contrast that was discussed between the "white city" of the fair and the "black city" of Chicago. The fair was seen to be perfect and showcased all that was beautiful and modern in the country, while Chicago was dirty, crowded and home to all the necessary evils of the world.

If you enjoy history or historical fiction, then you have either already read Devil in the White City, or should pick up a copy immediately. However, think before you read it before bed because it won't lead to pleasant dreams.

And now to counterbalance the seriousness, I am off to read "Where'd You Go, Bernadette," which also happens to be about an architect who went off the deep end.


Bailie @ The Hemborg Wife said...

I recently watched a documentary about Holmes and now am intrigued by this book!

Chelsea Ward said...

Ahh that was such a great book! So well written and so freaky at the same time!

Megan C. Stroup said...

When I read your first words, I thought you were going to say you didn't like it, and I was so sad haha. But I'm glad you enjoyed it! It is one of my favorite narrative nonfiction books of all time!

Kimberly Olsen said...

Such a good book! I read that a couple of years ago. I also am starting Where'd You Go Bernadette soon! Are you on Goodreads? The Night Circus was also amazing. Have you read that?