Monday, April 14, 2008

Devil In The White City

Finished. Done. Finally. This book was too easy to put down. I had such hopes. He writes in such a way that you feel completely absorbed in his narrative. It seems so interesting, until you realize, he just wrote about landscaping or concrete foundations for five pages and then I felt so betrayed that I'd put the book down. It was false advertising. I wanted to read about how this psychopath wove himself into the 1893 World Fair in Chicago (dubbed the White City because all of the buildings built for the fair were painted white) but it never happened. Larson takes certain liberties and places H.H. Holmes (the devil in the title) at the fair with two women he murdered for a couple of days but it's the only time he ever connects the two stories. He wrote an interesting history of the development of the fair and a descent portrayal of Holmes and his frightening existence, but how he decided to throw them together into one book and title it so that the two seem related is too much of a stretch. They both happened in Chicago in roughly the same time frame but it's like writing about the Washington D.C sniper murders like it had anything to do with building the World War II memorial on the National Mall. They just aren't related. Some happened in the same city during the same time...but some didn't and I don't think one really had anything to do with the other. Well, it's not quite as random as that...but almost.

I did learn a lot about architecture, and about the impact the fair had on America's history. That was fascinating. It brought about the design of the Ferris Wheel (although the first one was frightening - like 52 cars that could fit a hundred people in each one - no thanks), shredded wheat and other product icons. I probably would never check out a book on the 1893Chicago World's Fair so if that was his intention...he succeeded. It's just too bad his talent for making even rose bed designs sound compelling couldn't produce the story he promised to tell.

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