“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 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.
Favorite History Book
This was my first experience being completely engulfed in an audiobook. The mixture of story telling, setting, historical facts, suspense ,intimacy, and fascinating insight into the administrations response to the rise is incredible.
The Ambassador’s Tale
No matter how much I learn about WWII, it seems like there’s always more, always some new and fascinating aspect of it waiting to be examined. “In the Garden of Beasts, Love, Terror...” is one of those little known, but powerfully compelling stories of the era.
Two things set it apart from other WWII histories for me. First is the vivid cast of characters. The milquetoast ambassador, his vacant wife and their two adult children, the feckless son and the promiscuous, dilettante daughter. It’s almost hard to believe that these were real people and that nobody has made a movie about them. In fact, I think some of these people HAVE served as models for characters I’ve seen in fictional WWII stories.
The other, unique aspect of this book is the clarity with which it shows the process that Americans and Western Europeans went through in recognizing the threat and ugliness of Nazism. It was a time of casual, low-grade anti-Semitism and Germans were ethnic and cultural cousins. We had common faults and it wasn’t easy to recognize at what point where those faults tipped into barbarism and atrocity. Ambassadors Dodds journey from complacent misfit to posthumous recognition as wise alarm-sounder is sad and heartening and amazing.
The audiobook is well-produced and the narrator is perfect for the job.
It’s a great book, a great tale of redemption, personal growth and, in the daughters’ case, karma. Read it!
Really really enjoyed it. It is just one those reads where you can't put the book down
I highly recommend it for all adults.