This month my book club is reading The Devil in the White City by Eric Larsen. When it was first suggested, I didn’t think I’d like it. A book about the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893? Not so much on bookbabie’s list of must reads. Then again, a book with the subtitle Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America can’t be too boring, can it? Nope, it can’t. I finished it yesterday and it was a great read, wholly deserving of a non-fiction finalist spot in the 2003 National Book Awards, and being chosen as the winner of the 2004 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime. The book is centered around two main characters, architect Daniel Burnham who built the fair, and Dr. H. H. Holmes a psychopathic serial killer who set up shop near the fair. It reads like great fiction and knowing it’s a true story makes it that much better. A real-life supporting cast of historical characters such as George Ferris, Buffalo Bill, Susan B. Anthony, Clarence Darrow, Frederick Olmsted, and Thomas Edison helps bring life in America at the turn of the century alive.
My one complaint is that there were only a few photographs in the book. When I Googled the fair I came across a wonderful website full of photographs like the one I posted above of the grand, Agricultural Hall. If you haven’t read The Devil in the White City yet, but you plan to, bookmark the The World’s Columbian Exposition site at The Paul V. Glavin Library Digital History Collection so you can see, as well as read, about a fascinating time in our country’s history.
Hmm, I wonder who would be great in the role of Daniel Burnham if they make the movie?????