The Devil in the White City

On the morning of November’s book club meeting I emailed my friend Kali and said, “It is month two, and I am already a book club failure.” I was about 250 pages shy of finishing the book that was due by 7:30pm that night. And of course, I had a full day of work ahead of me.

She was about 90 pages from the end when we talked. We both had a chuckle about how we felt like we were in school again. So her response was classic, “Skim, skim, skim!” Luckily I was able to head home early from work that afternoon, and I spent the two and a half hours before book club trying to get as far as I could.

The book was, The Devil in the White City. It is a non-fiction book written in a novelistic style by Erik Larson. I rarely read non-fiction. Maybe the occasional memoir or some historical fiction from time to time, but rarely non-fiction. It is just something I don’t gravitate to at the bookstore. That is one of the best parts about book club though. I am being challenged to read something I wouldn’t usually pick out on my own. And challenged to finished the 390 page book by a deadline I was!

The book is set in Chicago, year 1893. The story alternates between Daniel Burnham, the lead architect during The Chicago World’s Fair and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer who used his World’ Fair Hotel to lure his young, naive female victims to their death. Sounds intriguing doesn’t it? It is, however, it didn’t really become interesting until I started to, “skim, skim, skim!” The first half of the book seemed overly detailed. The author did his own research which is really impressive. But, I really only wanted to hear about so-and-so’s tooth ache, and so-and-so’s gout so much.

The chapters about the serial killer weren’t very suspenseful either. I am not into murder mysteries because, frankly, I get scared. So I was happy it wasn’t very detailed, but then again, a part of me wanted something more.

This book definitely didn’t place in my top 10, but many of the ladies at book club really enjoyed it. It may be a generational thing where the older you are the more you appreciate history, or maybe it is the fact that all of the older women are teachers, therefore it might be a prereq to appreciate history. *Note, when I say these women are older, they are by no means old. They are just older than me, 50+. And when I say appreciate history, that doesn’t mean I don’t. I just wonder if it intensifies as you age.

If you had the book in your to-read pile, I don’t want to discourage you. This book was well written, but it just wasn’t something that interested me.

I was left with one question though that you might be able to help me with…why don’t we have World’s Fairs anymore?

Next up: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom.



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