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In the Garden of Beasts Love Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin Author:Erik Larson ?Larson is a marvelous writer...superb at creating characters with a few short strokes.??New York Times Book Review — — Erik Larson has been widely acclaimed as a master of narrative non-fiction, and in his new book, the bestselling author of Devil in the White City turns his hand to a remarkable story set during Hitler?s rise to power. — — The... more » time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America?s first ambassador to Hitler?s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.
A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the ?New Germany,? she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance?and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler?s true character and ruthless ambition.
Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming--yet wholly sinister--Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.
I checked this one out from my library. Although I had 14 days in which to read it, I finished it in much less time. It's filled with historical facts of Hitler, his henchmen, and pre-WW2 information of a type that most of us never knew. I was hooked on it from the first page. On the other hand, my husband who also read it, wasn't enamoured with it. He found it to be too full of the romantic exploits of the American ambassador's daughter, Martha Dodd. True, there WAS a lot of that, which made it all the more interesting to me. Maybe this is just naturally a woman's point of view. However I think that any WW2 buff would find it very interesting. Eric Larson is my kind of writer, and he has done nothing but improve with experience. His "Devil In the White City" was great, too. I highly recommend both!
If you have ever wondered how people could have closed their eyes to the atrocities that happened during the years before and during World War II in Germany, this book provides an excellent look at the country through the eyes of the American Ambassador and his family, and others close to the family.It is very well written and fleshed out by this award winning author. It reads more like a fictional story then an historical account, and it is hard to grasp that these things actually happened and the world just proceeded on its merry way while a sick leader (Hitler)was randomly murdering various ethnic groups and classes at will with no backlash. I was personally appalled to learn that even the United States did not "like" the Jews and generally felt some of the same feelings against them as did Hitler, but of course did not murder them. Makes me wonder if they were happy to leave that to psychopath that lived in and ruled Germany. My suggestion? Read this book...well worth the time.
Currently 5/5 Stars.
Carol S. reviewed In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin on
Erik Larson, noted author of The Devil in the White City, returns for more micro-historical-story-telling. In the Garden of the Beasts alternates between William Dodd, the American ambassador during the early years of Hitler's rise to power in Germany, and his daughter Martha, who also went to Berlin. Larson still excels at the story-telling aspect of his craft, although there is less suspense than Devil given the subject matter and its relative familiarity here— we all know what happens to Hitler's Germany. After their one year anniversary in Berlin, subsequent events seemed rushed; Larson was running out of steam. I happened to have read Andrew Nagorksi's Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power earlier this year, which give me a broader perspective on this historical moment and writing about history. The sources one uses probably unconsciously but inherently direct the story being told. Larson, using mostly the Dodds' and other State Department papers, paints Ambassador Dodd as "the lone beacon of American freedom and hope in a land of gathering darkness," albeit a mild-mannered history professor whose style and income bracket didn't jive with the rest of the diplomatic corps, whereas Nagorski focused much more on members of the American press corps, whose reaction to Dodd was mixed because he was ineffectual. Both books informed my very dim understanding of this time in a complementary way, and In the Garden of the Beasts was the more entertaining book.