Chicago in the 1890s was a place for dreams. Daniel Hudson Burnham was one of the architects that dreamt of bringing the world to Chicago for a World’s Fair to celebrate Columbus’s discovery of the New World. Henry H Holmes, on the other hand, dreamt of bringing death to pretty young ladies attending the fair. Both of their stories are told and intertwined by Larson with his deft storytelling and extensive research. This book bounced between these and other major players of the World’s Colombian Exposition, but I did not find that distracting. Instead, it was a very smart way to allow readers to have a rest from the trickery and death of Holmes so they are not overwhelmed by him.
My favorite bit about this book was learning a lot about the challenges and wonders of the Fair, including the creation of the original Ferris Wheel that stood 264 feet in the air and allowed for 2160 people to ride at any given time. Of course, I was also fascinated with the story of Holmes and his self-designed “castle”/hotel that had airtight rooms, a crematorium, and multiple other macabre mysteries.
I recommend this book for anyone interested in American History or just like a well told story. Holmes’s story and methods are told in a manner of fact fashion and is not gory. You can find our copy in the Large Print section of the library. It’s call number is LP 364.15 LAR.
While I have not read the Iliad, I am almost knowledgeable in the ins & outs of the Trojan War…after all, I’ve see Troy! Madeline Miller tells the story in Song of Achilles, from a slightly different view of this chaotic time in history – we see it through the eyes of Patroclus, Achilles’s lifelong companion and lover. The novel starts with Patroclus’s unhappy childhood. He is awkward and not the son his father wanted. The anthesis of Achilles who was a lovely demigod who was the gold standard of being the perfect son – he was musical, a fierce warrior and a good scholar. These 2 young, 10 year old boys meet and become friends when Patroclus is exiled for causing the death of a powerful nobleman’s son. Achilles takes him under his wing as his father takes Patroclus on as a foster, as he did for many many other boys. As his chosen companion, Patroclus is given pretty much the same privileges as Achilles himself – including the same education and training. Their relationship blossoms and becomes a true love story that is treated with respect by Miller. They later go together to Troy to “rescue” Helen from Paris, which ended poorly for both young men.
The characters come to life in this novel and I had no trouble believing them and believing in them. I was pulled in by them, and really wanted to know how they would turn out, even though I have seen Troy. Another aspect I really enjoyed about this is the fact that it deals with the mythical and realistic aspects of the story in the same matter of fact manner. Miller describes very real battles and school-aged angst in the same way she deals with the boys being taught by a centaur and Achilles’s mother being a sea nymph.
You can find this book in our adult fiction section with the call number F MIL.