In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin is on Amazon's list of Best Books in May 2011 and IndieBound's May '11 Indie Next List.
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson
I'd discovered Erik Larson by chance. We were visiting Chicago for a wedding a few years ago our cab driver highly recommended Larson's earlier book The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America which is an amazing read. He'd written a nonfiction book that read like one of the best thrillers ever. Larson has a gift for combining detailed research with a gripping narrative.
This latest book, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, Erik Larson is equally, if not even more riveting. I was lost in the book for a day and a night - and resurfaced only after finishing it.
Berlin, 1933. William E. Dodd becomes America's first ambassador to Hitler's Germny in a year that will prove to be a turning point in history. A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, he brings along his wife, son, and a flamboyant daughter, Martha. Dodd must associate with key Nazis and attend their glittering parties, while telegraphing his growing fears to a largely indifferent State Department. His daughter, meanwhile, becomes entranced with the "New Germany" and has one affair after another, including with the surprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. The year darkens ominously, and both Dodd and his daughter find their lives gradually transformed -- until the bloody night that reveals Hitler's true charcter.
Breathtakingly paced, with unforgettable portraits of Germany's new masters, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin is a stunning work of narrative nonfiction that sheds fresh light on why America stood by as Hitler rose to power.
If you are interested in Nazi Germany or enjoy reading about history or nonfiction, do read In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin. Larson somehow delivers considerable detail and research in a way that adds to the drama and our understanding of the time.
His choice of the Dodds as the main characters gives us a glimpse into the U.S. diplomatic corps at that time. Dodd's resentment of the wealthy and connected diplomats that populated the service becomes an important factor in the outcome of his diplomatic mission. Larson demonstrates the ways in which Dodd was an awkward fit and how this outsider status affected the way he dealt with his German colleagues. His beautiful and wild daughter Martha dove into Berlin's social circuit. Her friendships, love affairs, contacts, and adventures further complicated the Dodds' position with fellow diplomats - and help make In the Garden of Beasts a fascinating read.
ISBN-10: 0307408841 - Hardcover $26.00
Publisher: Crown; 1St Edition edition (May 10, 2011), 464 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher.
About the Author:
Erik Larson graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied Russian history, language and culture. He received a masters in journalism from Columbia University. After a brief stint at the Bucks County Courier Times, Larson became a staff writer for The Wall Street Journal, and later a contributing writer for Time Magazine. He has written articles for The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and other publications.
Erik Larson is the author of national bestsellers Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History. Read more about him at www.ErikLarsonBooks.com