Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Devil in The White City by Erik Larson

Title/Author: The Devil in The White City
Publisher: Vintage Books
Pages: 447
ISBN: 0-375-72560-1

In a nutshell
Firstly, this is non-fiction. I bought thinking it was fiction! Silly me. Anyway, Larson combined tales of two very passionate men, who toiled (one of them, very surreptitiously) to achieve their ambitions, but both have one objective - to create history.

Burnham was the architect behind the legendary 1893 World's Fair, while Holmes was the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death.

In the opening pages, you'll be introduced to them through their words.

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood." - Daniel Burnham, Director of Works World's Columbian Exposition, 1893

"I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing." - Dr. H. H. Holmes, Confession, 1896

Thus began the story that has captured a wide readership...(including Leonardo di Caprio, who already bought the film rights in 2010)...except, probably me. 

What I liked
Let me share what I liked first. I love learning new stuff, so reading this added some info to my knowledge bank. 

Holmes's story was the page turner. He was such a character! Holmes was like a living dark entity in the real world. A dark entity who had the power to charm and harm. His charisma drew many women into his life - young and old. Once he had charm, he'd harm. He was so malevolent he craved seeing pain in his victims's eyes.

To be honest, I had no idea what the World's Fair was all about until now. It not only sounded fascinating, but its history was too. Here's a little about World's Fair: 
The White City was the nickname for the World's Fair, The World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The central array of buildings were painted white - they were so beautiful that there were stories of people bursting into tears. There were about 200 other buildings in the Fair but the central array that was painted white was why it was called the White City.

The original Ferris Wheel was created at and for the Fair. It was designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. and became the landmark of the Fair.

Basically that's about it. Lots and lots of information thrown into the pages with really lengthy narration. It got kinda draggy when Larson went into too much detail especially about the work that went into the Fair.

Reading this tale of two men made me realize how passion can make and break a person. How success can be so different in the eyes of the beholder. Holmes 'could look at himself in the mirror and tell himself that he was one of the most powerful and dangerous men in the world. He could feel that he was a god in disguise.' That to him, was success - being wanted, being hunted, being able to outwit the authority was success.

This reminded me of a recent tragedy that took place in Sandy Hook school. People blamed the guns and they requested for increased gun control measures. Truly, it's not the weapons that create evil. It's our minds. A criminal will find all ways to get their guns; if not, they'll find other means to hurt and harm. Stricter gun controls won't help curb crimes. We have knives at home, why don't ban knives too? Anything can be used as a weapon as long as the mind intends to. FYI, Holmes didn't use guns to kill his victims. All he needed were his charm and experience in pharmaceuticals.

I think what we need to feed our future generations with is more love and better education.

What I disliked
The architecture and the details put into the book about the World's Fair was just too much. This pretty much sums it all because that's all you'll find in the book.

Definitely won't be in my must-read non-fiction book.

My verdict? 2/5 (But those who enjoy architecture might like this book)

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