Monday, February 15, 2010

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

This book took me about 2 1/2 months to read and I felt it was worth it. I started in Dec. 2009 but I'll count it toward this year as I finished this month. It is my first non-fiction book of this year and so compelling that I've procrastinated in writing this review as I've struggled to find the words to tell about it. My overall opinion is that this was not your ordinary non-fiction but altogether an excellent read. I was considerably amazed with all the details and facts which have compelled me to want to learn more and not necessarily about The Devil in the White City but about Chicago itself. What can I say? I have discovered that I love reading and learning about this time period circa 1893. It really was an exciting time in history or at least I think so now as I've read a couple of books about it.
This novel really depicts two stories in which one is about murder through the hands and the maddened mind of H.H. Holmes. That part is truly terrifying. On the other hand you have this magical part of the story of the World's Fair and all the components necessary to pull it off. I marvel that this was probably the start of the creation of Amusement Parks like Walt Disney World. I found these details fascinating. It was intriguing how all of these components and people came together working so hard to achieve this unique venue. In some ways they triumphed and in other ways they even failed. They were tenacious and disbelieving that they could actually pull this off. It was sheer madness to even consider at that time period what they dreamed up, i.e. a GIANT wheel that transports people into the air just for fun to give them the sensation that they are flying and also made completely out of steel! Really? A Ferris Wheel. So insanely amazing!

On the back of my book cover I found these two quotes about this book that really caught my attention before I read it:

So good, you find yourself asking how you could not know this already.

A wonderfully unexpected book...Larson is a historian...with a
novelist's soul. ~Chicago Sun-Times

As I read this book, I found out exactly the truth of what these quotes meant. I'm glad that I did as well. I did find myself wondering and realizing how little I know about this time period. I also like the fact that one, as Larson did, can present facts in a vitally interesting way which made me feel as if I was reading and being entertained as a fiction novel does for me. To me as one who values writing, this represents a work of art. I also feel that I've retained many facts from reading this book so I think that it will be something that will stay with me. Finally for me, this so-called staying power is also a work of art.

447 pages, Vintage; Reprint edition (February 10, 2004), My rating: 4.5 stars

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Amanda said...

This is one of those books I really think I should read one day but I'm so bad with nonfiction that I don't know when I'll get around to it.

terry said...

great review, Julie! i thoroughly enjoyed this book too. Larson's stories-telling style is unique and captivating. it doesn't feel like non-fiction at all.

L said...

Great overview! I liked this book too. That guy was pure evil. Still gives me chills, and the people around him? Stupid, stupid, stupid!

JaneGS said...

I've been looking around for a good non-fiction as I've been immersed in novels recently. I'm currently reading New York, which is a novel, but this sounds even better. Thanks for a great review.

Julie said...

First of all, I just have to tell you how much your "great review's" mean to me. Thanks!

Amanda~I think if you choose to read this one as one of your non-fic choices you may simply be surprised about non-fic. Someday, you'll have to give non-fic a try when you can.

Terry~I'm glad to hear you liked this book too. I apologize if I didn't link your review and I'll have to look it up now. I like non-fic books that don't feel like it also.

Lula~Holmes is definately a giving chills kind of guy and pure evil too. Scary.

Jane~I'm curious as to what you'll think of this book if you read it. I'll look for New York. Are you enjoying it so far?

Thanks for stopping by!