Saturday’s Book: “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson

Full title: “The Devil in the White City” ; Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that changed America”

Honestly, real life IS stranger than fiction. I didn’t imagine I would feel such suspense when reading a well researched non-fiction book! The fact that it IS non fiction only adds to the drama and interest because even the minor characters that are mentioned are REAL people and it all ties in with real events.

There’s the ambitious and gifted lead architect with a goal of creating a white city so unusual that I would compare it to the “awe” factor (for me, at least) we find the palm islands of Dubai today. One of the carpenters on site was a Mr. Disney, who told his son Walt endlessly about this magical city he helped build…

There’s the incredibly handsome serial killer. Think of the bad guy in the book “the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – this guy puts him to shame…

There is the city of Chicago itself.. Am I glad I didn’t live there in 1893! The levels of air pollution (the stench and the fumes were unbelievable) and water pollution were horrific. On one hand it may have been a vibrant city with building going up like mad but the crime rate was really bad and poor people could easily starve to death.

The first unions appear (for me  Samuel Gompers was always the name of my first school, here he’s alive and really kicking, battling for decent hours and wages). Teddy Roosevelt puts in  a short appearance (the architect manages to turn him down, no small feat!) as do others.

The start of reciting”the pledge of alleigance” in the school system is also related to the fair!

Added perk of reading non fiction – one of the important character is Olmstead, the landscape architect who designed Central Park in New York (among other things). He was casually mentioned in an article in the New Yorker. I never would have noticed but now I was pleased to know who he was!

I do know the fair got built but at the moment (I’ve read half the book) I feel in suspense – will they get this amazing feat built? How high will the personal costs of it be?

Can’t wait to find out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *