Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Devil in the White City

Remember those days when I was on medical leave? And I was posting a book review at least once, twice or three times a week? Those days seem a distant memory...Well, a few days before I went back to work, I opened Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City. And I read nearly 1/3 of the compelling non-fiction piece before having to put it aside for our book club's 500 page laborious novel. Then baseball, soccer and a few other obligations got in the way. But tonight I finished it! And it wasn't so much a story to read. It was a story to become absorbed in. To become fascinated, horrified, saddened, amused and even made proud. It was a unique history skillfully written by a talented author whose research must've been excruciating.

Mr. Larson juxtaposes the 1892 Chicago World Fair (The Columbian Exposition) with a charming serial killer who set up shop (a hotel and pharmacy) only blocks away from the event. There is so much fodder in this book;  how the fair came to Chicago, the political climate of the nation, the economy, the architecture of the fair, AND the profound impact the fair had on our country today....really. All the way from Urban Planning to Shredded Wheat to light bulbs to the bank holiday that we know as Columbus Day. Oh, and let's not forget about Disney. But that's just part of this amazing story. Anyone interested in criminal minds and depraved serial killers will certainly be intrigued. And, certainly you'll draw some parallels between the calculated murders and the men who died in attempt to create the "White City."

I never really favored non-fiction. Give me fiction any day. But I find myself reading more and more of the stuff all the time. Perhaps I wasn't finding non-fiction writers who were compelling for me. Suddenly, I've got uber favorites! Elizabeth Gilbert. Lauren Hillenbrand. (Deepak Chopra and Sonia Choquette on the spiritual side) Now, add Erik Larson to the list. I must leave you one quote that this author wrote in all place, the acknowledgements.

"I fell in love with the city, the people I encountered, and above all, the lake and its moods, which shift so readily from season to season, day to day, even hour to hour."

That is a great sentence. About a great city. In a great book.

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