I got to revisit one of my all time favorite books with this month’s book club book, Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson. This book, although it is non-fiction, reads much like a fiction book; Larson does a fantastic job of pulling readers in to the story using only the facts. It tells the story of the architect, Daniel Burnham’s vision and quest to achieve achitectural splendor for the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 right along side the dark tale of Dr. Holmes, who kills between 27-200 people during the time of the fair.
For me, both storylines are equally intriguing for different reasons. On the architectural side of things, I love that Fredrick Law Olmstead is represented in the story as the first Landscape Architect in America. He tells the frustrations of most current Landscape Architects as he was striving to get the profession widely recognized as being worthy of more than just flowerbeds. The LA in me really geeks out on that. I also really enjoyed learned about all of the items that were ‘firsts’ at this time, the kodak camera, AC electricity current, the Ferris Wheel and many others. It’s amazing to see a time when America was on the cusp of so many modernizations.
On the other side of things, my interest in mystery is peaked and somewhat repulsed in the story of Dr. Holmes. That such a charming, deceptive man existed chills me.
The two men of the story never met and yet their paths coexisted in Chicago, a dark city striving to make itself equal with New York. Larson also does a great job telling the struggle of the city to come into it’s own through the fair.
Fantastic book! I loved reading it again. Larson makes history readily accessible with this book. 10/10