The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson | Teen Ink

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

June 10, 2016
By AlaNova ELITE, Naperville, Illinois
AlaNova ELITE, Naperville, Illinois
257 articles 0 photos 328 comments

Favorite Quote:
Dalai Lama said, "There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called YESTERDAY and the other is called TOMORROW, so today is the right day to love, believe, do, and mostly live..."


America is changing, and Chicago, its city of danger, magic, and rising black smoke, is determined to get to the top. When Congress rules the United States will hold a World Fair, there is a surge to create something like the world has never seen before. One of those men, an architect, will revolutionize the world of shape and color, sculpting a vision from Jackson Park’s nearly deserted swampland. Another, a mysterious, bewitchingly blue-eyed doctor, presides over a hotel, hosting dark secrets that threaten to overturn the fair for good. History will be made as America puts on its most unforgettable show.

You almost forget it’s nonfiction. From the bottom up, the story is crafted like a fictional masterpiece: Larson’s descriptions of the booming, tumultous fair transform the pages into the bells-ringing, trains-tolling, smoking black landscape of early industrialized America. One of its most dimensional cities, Chicago, is captured vividly, a fiercely ambitious giant at the turn of the century.

The entirety of man is also dissected through Larson’s novel, whose biographical approach brings to life the book’s leading characters. One, the famed Daniel Hudson Burnham, is desperate to be recognized for his work, struggling under the impossible task of literally constructing the fair from nothing. He comes across potholes and problems left and right, which Larson diligently details. And behind the scenes, the madman H. H. Holmes captures our attention as the black to the city’s white, the yin to Burnham’s yang. His thirst for the morbid is revealed, step by step, as he orchestrates one of the greatest underground massacres in Chicago history. They’re an unlikely pair, and bring the skies and the underground together to represent a changing city, and a changing new world.

In every sense of the word, the book is grand, grand as the Fair itself. Larson revitalizes one of the most exotic, dazzling, and downright magical moments of American history through the men who shaped the Fair the most. Two colors that run together throughout the book, gritty black soot against coats of milky white, capture the very essence of a filthy, grimy city reaching towards something divine. Larson’s ability to stop time is flawless, from cover to cover. And what an adventure--the devil’s in the white city.


The author's comments:

What does "THHRe" stand for? Good question! It's THE HOLY HITCHHIKE’S REVIEW...A shorter version of the Hitchhike, reviews principally concerning books, movies, and music. Enjoy, and let loose your commentary and suggestions below. A new column of THH every Friday!


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