In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin
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 w...more
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My marker of a good book is that when I finish reading it, I spend hours doing internet searches on the protagonists. I did this with Beasts, and discovered that in the last year the remains of Goering's widow were discovered at his estate and her identity confirmed through DNA evidence. You'll never get this satisfaction with a fictional novel!
As a a reader of historical non-fiction books -- I don't read novels (Tom Clancy or otherwise), and won't weigh in on apples to oranges comparisons. But I have read a dozen books on the history of Chicago and their worlds fairs, and can say that Devil in The White City is a first class work of history.
In summary, I find Larsen's books refreshing in comparison to the dry, overly footnoted fare we usually get from academic historians. Larsen's gift is his ability to maintain historical accuracy while injecting an emotional element that immerses one totally into the time and place.
I look forward to his next project!(less)
I was split on Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City because I found the half of the book about the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair incredibly interesting but thought the other half about serial killer H.H. Holmes to be just another true crime gore fest. Then in Thunderstruck he again gave us some nice pop history with the story of Marconi and the inventi ...more
William Dodd had no idea what he was saying yes to when President Roosevelt ...more
While this is hardly a man-on-the-strasse point of view, a look at the goings on through the experiences of a diplomat and his daughter does get a bit closer to the ground than a more removed historical overview. La ...more
Erudite but ineffectual historian, Dr. William E. Dodd was chosen to be Ambassador to Germany in the decade leading up to WWII, because President Roosevelt couldn't find anyone else willing to take on the job. In 1933 Dodd was tasked with handling relations with a rabid and deranged political phoenix named Adolf Hitler. Perhaps you've heard of him?
Dodd has brought along his ...more
I've read a fair number of books about the Holocaust and I did find the political maneuvering described in 'Garden' interesting in a stomach turning, sickening kind of way. But the people in this story never came to life for me, with the exception of Martha Dodd who I didn' ...more
In his latest book, In the Garden of Beasts, Larson takes on the rise to po ...more
It seems clear from this p ...more
Not being an avid non-fiction reader (although I'm getting better about that), it is sometimes hard for me get through a book choc full of dates, geography and personal titles without either being royally confused or painfully bored. I need actual "stories" to flesh out what I'm reading and enable me to have some pictures in my head so I can keep u ...more
Roosevelt selects a new Ambassador to Germany, William E. Dodd. As he later finds out, he's not the President's first choice, or his second, or his third. No one wants the job, recogn ...more
William Dodd was in many ways a sort of square peg in a round hole when he became America's ambassador to Germany in 1933. He seems (according to Mr. Larson) to have become ambassador because it was a post very few wanted. He had hoped to get an appointment ...more
In his preface, Larson writes, “Once, at the dawn of a very dark time, an American father and daughter found themselves suddenly transported from their snug home in Chicago to the heart of Hitler’s Berlin. They remained there for four and a ...more
World War II had ended ...more
Ambassador Dodd tried to sound alarms in 1933; no one listened or cared. His daughter Martha became a Russian spy (1937), but you won't learn this in Erik Larson's selective view of the world. Why not? Graham Greene warned about American naivete in his 1955 novel, "The Quiet American."
Maybe the motto "In God We Trust" needs a rewrite.
What stood out for me:
--The book covers only July, 1933 - late 1934 in any depth, although Ambassador Dodd served until the end of 1937. I think I would have liked more on the later years.
--The parallel st ...more
If your thinking about reading this - do so. The likelihood of your being disappointed in it is quite minimal. I can say that every year I sele ...more
William Dodd was one of the most unusual diplomatic/ambassadorial choices in American History. Having no prior experience in matters of state (he was previously a professor at the University of Chicago) he singlehandedly attempted to defuse (by dint of protocol and standard reasoning)the emerging Nazi threat which permeated the city of Berlin and w ...more
The portentuous overtones make you think the book is going somewhere - which is not to say t ...more
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