Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Devil In The White City

I originally purchased this book two summers ago right before I went on a three-week vacation in the Philippines. I'd heard from a friend of two that it was a really good book, so I decided I'd pick up a copy to read on during the 17-hour flight. Judging from the cover, it appears that the distributors are trying really hard to grab your attention. The magnificent White City surrounded by a sky full of darkness is almost too much to resist and the "DEVIL" in the title gives buyers the impression that the novel centers almost entirely around the story of the sadistic Holmes.To be completely honest, I bought this book to read about Holmes. I could care less about Burnham and all of his architectural wonders. Serial killers fascinate me; architects, not so much. During my first reading of the novel, I trudged through the Burnham chapters bored out of mind, but, due to the fact that I couldn't fall asleep in the cramped seats of the plane, I stayed awake through it all and didn't skip a single word. The story of Holmes, on the other hand, really intrigued me and I looked forward to each detail concerning his killings. Looking back, I didn't approach the novel as a literary critic. I didn't care how Larson ended each chapter or how he added his own details that would have been impossible for him to know. I was just interested in the story itself. Parts of the fair amazed me, and looking at the photos, I wish Chicago had preserved the grounds. After finishing the novel, I was quite satisfied with the novel and I immediately started looking for another historical novel to quench my thirst. Instead, I went and laid on the beach, ate an overabundance of delicious Filipino food, and met the entire side of my dad's family.

Once I saw we were reading DITWC in this class, I became excited all over again. I breezed through the book again (although I did not read the final chapters this time), but I found that instead of focusing on Holmes as I had previously done, I was instead focusing on Burnham and his mission towards creating the greatest architectural wonder in the world at that time. I became bored with Holmes, sometimes skimming his sections instead of reading them, and focused on every little detail about the construction of the fair. Again, I did not focus on Larson's style of writing. At times I would note that Larson should have omitted certain lines, but, overall, I thought he did a tremendous job creating a story with the immense pile of research he had to do.

All in all, I thought Devil in the White City was a good read. One which I could read a couple more times just to capture details I had missed the first two times.

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