Devil’s Review

It’s possible that Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, which I finished reading this past weekend, is the first ever nonfiction book that wasn’t creatively written (aka a memoir) that I’ve ever read outside of school. Suggested by my other half, I figured it would be a slightly interesting way to go outside of my comfort zone. I know nothing about Chicago, nothing about the Worlds Fair, and nothing about any sort of serial killer that happened during that time. I had no idea how enthralled I would become.

–Also, I’m going to be trying out a modified review format today, so let me know your thoughts on it in the comments!–

REVIEW: The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
Published: 2003
Length: 390

Most Memorable Line(s): “I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet could help the inspiration to sing.”
–The idea that the drive to senselessly murder countless individuals could be a quality one’s born with is horrifying and also fascinating. This quote was at the very beginning of the book – before the story really even started – and was also later in the novel. It’s a chilling statement made by a vile individual who felt that young women, children, and sometimes men were just items to be possessed and disposed of.

What I liked: First and foremost, Erik Larson is insanely talented! I’ll be the first to admit I had no idea about what I was reading in this book – I’d never heard of this Fair, or what happened there. So reading this for me was like reading a fiction novel; I had no idea what to expect. His writing style is really captivating. He switched between points of view – always in third person limited – and also used real documents of research about the situations. I was always yearning to found out what would happen next. Also, it was SO fun to learn about all of the things that came out of that Fair: the Ferris Wheel, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, Shredded Wheat cereal, WHOLE BUILDINGS OF ELECTRICITY, and more.

What I didn’t like: At times, the level of detail Larson used, which is a compliment, was a little overwhelming for me. I’m not super into architecture, so many of the drawn out details regarding the buildings were “meh” to me. There were moments I felt were a little bit overtold and drawn out regarding the drama of simply building the fair (which, to be fair to Larson, was actually the point of the novel…). I also had some issues of queasiness when it came to hearing about what serial killer Holmes did to the women he met throughout the years. An evil, evil man whom Larson brought to the page brilliantly, Holmes’ actions were too much for me to take sometimes.

Grade: 7/10… for some boring architectural details (which got exhausting after a while) and some gruesome moments that made me queasy

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