It's about time for another book club update. N served as host for January and suggested we meet for brunch at Glenn's Diner, a fantastic little restaurant right off the Montrose Brown Line stop. They serve tons of breakfast dishes and also have an amazing menu of seafood for dinnertime! I chose the yummy chocolate-chip pancakes... which reminded me of my family's weekly Sunday brunches back home in Kansas and the chocolate-chip pancakes my dad makes—though of course, Dad's are better... there is nothing like being home :)
We discussed last month's selection, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (I admit, I didn't have time to read the book this time...). All the way from the West Coast, our friend I. also called in to share her thoughts too. Most of the girls were not huge fans of the book; they thought it was a quick, light read but not terribly interesting. One of us absolutely loved it though, so I suppose it's one of those picks that can go either way. There was the inevitable comparison to Bossypants, Tina Fey's book, which most thought was funnier than Is Everyone Hanging Out..? (I guess if I had to skip one book, this wasn't the worst one to miss.)
E. was heading off to Mexico for the second half of her travel adventures a few days after the meeting, so we lined up titles for the next three months so she could bring them along. Next up: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. Living in Chicago, I am intrigued to read the story behind the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and all its "murder, magic, and madness."
Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that The Devil in the White City is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel.
Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor. Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison. The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims.
Combining the stories of an architect and a killer in one book, mostly in alternating chapters, seems like an odd choice but it works. The magical appeal and horrifying dark side of 19th-century Chicago are both revealed through Larson's skillful writing.