The Devil in the White City is a story following two characters, Daniel Burnham and H.H. Holmes. David Burnham is an architect who is building the World Fair in Chicago. David Burnham is trying to make this world fair as amazing as the last one in Pairs, France when they built the Eiffel Tower. H.H. Holmes is a serial killer who uses the World Fair to lure in helpless victims. The chapters switch between Holmes and Burnham giving the reader two separate plots and two different looks at what the Chicago World Fair was like.
The story starts off with David Burnham and his partner John Boot getting the bid to construct this fair. Burnham faces many challenges throughout his experience building this fair because he wanted it to be in comparison to the Eiffel Tower. Burnham’s partner John Boot passes away to make him all alone to face struggles like late building drafts. Burnham keeps working and creates the Ferris Wheel, which is a big hit. The fair and the Ferris wheel are a success and Burnham creates a good income with many people attending the fair.
H.H. Holmes starts off by moving to Chicago and buying a building very close to the World Fair and making it a hotel. He then creates a hotel where he kills and stores his victims. Holmes becomes very involved with many women. He dates them, sleeps with them and even marries some, but tends to murder them all. Holmes gets caught up in a lot of debt and fraud and he feels as if he is on the verge of getting caught so he flees town and is arrested in Philadelphia by Frank Geyer.
Both of these men have very different angle on the world fair and you can almost understand the dynamic of the fair better with two points of view. You get the idealistic point of view of the fair form David Burnham, and you get the negative image of the fair from H.H. Holmes.
This book was hard to get through at times, but I think that there is an important message and learning opportunities throughout this book. I liked the chapters about H.H. Holmes because it was more interesting and it kept the reader involved. Many of the chapters about David Burnham became very boring because I personally am not interested in the architect of a building.
I would rate this book a two, because I felt very uninterested during the part of the book talking about David Burnham. I found some parts interesting but not very many. I do think this book is an important book to read though so people can understand the World Fair and the dynamics of it better.
Some other books I would recommend would be:
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
The book The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is about the events that took place during the years of construction on the 1893 Chicago World Fair. The story switches off each chapter on two main characters, Daniel Burnham and H.H. Holmes. By doing this the author manages to create almost two separate but also connected plots. During the first half of the book the reader learns of all the struggles that Burnham encounters while being the lead architect on the building the fair and being ready for its opening day on May 1st, 1893. At the same time the reader is introduced to Holmes, a serial killer who uses the fair to lure in unsuspecting victims.
The plot with Burnham beings with Chicago winning the bid for the World Fair in 1890 and Burnham and his partner, John Boot, being announced as the architects to carry out the exposition. Soon after, Boot becomes ill and dies and Burnham is left to carry out the process on his own. He encounters many problems along the way involving deaths on the construction sites, budget issues, union strikes, time limits, and the to task outshine the Paris world Fair of 1889 with the world famous Eiffel Tower. Greg Ferris helps Burnham out when he invents the Ferris Wheel to be the main attraction for the fair. Halfway through the book, it’s opening day and the fair is still not finished.
Another plot is simultaneously unfolding along with Burnham’s, H.H. Holmes moves to Chicago to open a pharmacy in a building that happens to be very close to where the 1893 Chicago World Fair will be held. He then turns the floors above the pharmacy into a hotel for people to stay while attending the fair. Many of the guests go missing and the reader is lead on to the idea that Holmes is killing many of them even though it is never blatantly stated by the author. Throughout the first half of the book Holmes has married many women, killed them and also committed many forms of fraud. In the second half of the book the reader sees the characters they got to know in the first half, develop greatly in the end. The two plot lines get more closely related to each other as well as both deepen in their own ways. During the second half of the book the reader learns of the continuing pressure being put on Daniel Burnham even after the fair had opened. Not only is the plot and life of Burnham continuing in the book but so is the plotline of H.H. Holmes and his seemingly never-ending line of victims.
As the second half of the book begins the reader learns of Burnham’s continuous struggles in keeping up with gaining the fair’s expected revenue. Halfway through the fair, it has still not brought in even close to the number of people it was expected to. This brings great pressure to Burnham and makes him hope even more that the debut of the first ever Ferris wheel at the fair exceeds expectations and brings in thousands of new visitors. The attraction does indeed bring in many of new visitors and eventually the fair gets out of debt and is considered very successful. While the reader learns of the struggles and the success of the fair, they also learns of even more murders and crimes Holmes is committing. By the end of the fair in October Holmes moves to Texas and continues his devilish ways. Also in the last stretch of the fair Pendergast and his growing insanity about Mayor Harrison progresses to the point that Pendergast shots and kills Mayor Harrison a few days before the fair’s closing ceremony. At the end of the book H.H. Holmes is placed in prison for fraud and then convicted of all his murders and crimes by a detective who had been investigating him for years ever since the fair closed. Homes is sentenced to death as well as Pendergast after he turned himself in for the murder of Mayor Harrison.
Evaluation: I learned a lot from this book about historical facts while also enjoying the truly suspenseful murderous storyline. I enjoyed it because I found the book to be so well written and planned out by the author. I would definitely recommend this book if you want to learn about historical events while also having a creepy entertaining element be contributed.
Rating: I would give this book 4 stars because it was filled with great facts and entertaining events but took a while to get in to..
Summary: The Devil in the White City is about the years of the building of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Daniel Burnham and his partner, John Root, are the architects who build the fair. Daniel Burnham faces many challenges, like late building drafts, global economic decline, union strikes, construction injuries and deaths, and discovery of an attraction more amazing than the Eiffel Tower of the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. But, Burnham and his crew keep working and come up with the Ferris wheel. Burnham completes construction and improves fair attendance to pay costs and make money. Simultaneous to all of this H.H. Holmes comes to Chicago in 1886 to become a pharmacist. Holmes gets a pharmacy close to the future site of the World’s Fair and buys the lot across the street and builds a death trap hotel. The top two floors of his building are apartments with secret passages, hallways, and chutes to the basement for dead bodies. Holmes turns his building into the World’s Fair Hotel. Holmes becomes involved with many women, marries a few, kills many, and acquires tons of debt, and commits a bunch of fraud. On the verge of discovery, Holmes flees Chicago and travels until he is arrested for insurance fraud in Philadelphia. Detective Frank Geyer investigates Holmes’s past illegal activity and uncovers several of Holmes’s murders.
Evaluation: I took away a lot from this book, learned quite a bit about the World’s Fair and the specifics of H.H. Holmes horror story. I enjoyed it because I also found it to be entertaining, as it had a mystery novel element that kept me on my toes. I would recommend this book if you want to learn while being entertained.
Rating: I would give this book 3 stars because it was entertaining but a little slow to start.
2 other books I would recommend reading are: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Summary: In The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson uses the history that the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 left behind to recreate the lives of two very different men during the span of five years. The book is divided up into four parts, each switching between the stories of Daniel Burnham and H. H. Holmes. Burnham is an architect who has been hired to build the 1893 World’s Fair, and Holmes is not a genius detective, but a serial killer who uses Burnham’s creation to pick his victims. These two men were in fact real people who lived during this time. Any blank spots Larson filled in with historical context.
Analysis: The true story of The Devil in the White City is an amazing read. Erik Larson really does take you into the Chicago World’s Fair and makes it feel like you know the characters. The fact that it is a true story is both mind blowing and impressive. Mind blowing because I feel like most people don’t have very much knowledge about real serial killers like H. H. Holmes, and impressive because Larson managed to recreate these two men’s lives in a book using only, well, history! While it is impressive, I found myself a bit bored many times throughout the book. For this reason I would rate it at 3 stars..
Summary: The Devil in the White City has two story lines going on at once, one about Daniel Burnham and the other about H.H. Holmes. Burnham is an architect constructing a fair in Chicago that is trying to compete with the opening of the Eiffel Tower. This is a huge responsibility and honor, but many struggles come along with it that Burnham has to face. H.H. Holmes is a serial killer that when he discovers the fair is going to be built near his house he turns his hotel into the fair hotel. He creates hidden walls and has a kiln to quickly and easily dispose of the bodies. This book brings tragedy, perseverance, and grit. The reader sees the culture of 1890s while having a serial killer thriller side added in.
This book starts off a little slow, but once the serial killer gets more involved the story picks up. However, there are a lot of architectural sections of the book, focused simply on how the building is to look, which I felt could get boring. The culture of the time period was very interesting however. Also, the creepy, slyness of the serial killer is what made me want to keep reading the book because like many others, I find killers intriguing. I would not have picked this book up for pleasure, even after I read it I was glad it was over. For school it is a decent book, but if you are looking for entertainment look elsewhere.
I give this book a two star because it was only semi entreating and I did not particularly enjoy it like other books. There are just too many good books out there.
Recommendations: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Slave by Mende Nazer, and The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.