Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Reading: The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is not fiction!  That deserves an exclamation point because I can't remember the last time I read a non-fiction book that wasn't about homeschooling or scrapbooking.  This book was a selection chosen by the book club I attend try to attend at my local library.  This month I was late in picking up my book, so I had barely read anything by the time of our meeting.  C'est la vie!

Although this book is non-fiction I was thrilled to find that it reads like a novel.  It has intriguing main characters.  The plot is compelling.  The story is set in Chicago, during the construction and operation of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.  The first storyline is about the architects of the fair, and their struggle to make this an event worthy of 'World' status in a very limited time frame.  The second storyline is of the serial killer, H. H. Holmes,  who takes advantage of his charismatic ways to charm people out of their property, money and ultimately their life.

Although the serial killer aspect was fascinating and is told in a very plausible manner, it was actually the story of the construction of the fair by Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted that captured my attention the most. Larson really conveys the motivations and devotion that Burnham felt in trying to create the greatest fair that has ever existed.

Some of the accomplishments made by the architects of the fair include: invention and construction of the first Ferris Wheel, development of a swampy area into a series of canals and lagoons, first public display of AC current, construction of the largest building in the world (by area).  The fair is also noted to be an inspiration for the Emerald City from L. Frank Baum's Land of Oz and Walt Disney's theme parks.

I would definitely recommend this book.  Learning about the effects this event has had on our world made this a wonderful read. 
If you would like a copy of this book, it is available at Amazon through the link below.

Happy reading and have a wonderfully whimsical day!

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