Canal Zone Daughter dredged up many memories for me, some wonderful, others sad. I was delighted to receive this book as a Goodreads First Reads book,Canal Zone Daughter dredged up many memories for me, some wonderful, others sad. I was delighted to receive this book as a Goodreads First Reads book, and I began reading it as soon as I opened the package. Well worth the read, it is a sweet, simple, touching memoir...except for the inevitable sudden end of everything "home" to the author.
In early 1978 I sat in the US Senate visitor’s gallery listening to the Panama Canal treaty debates with a group of a dozen students from my college, all of us history majors. I remember my sad shock that we few students outnumbered the Senators in the chamber at any given time. The few Senators there seemed more interested in the drinks young pages shuttled to them on a regular basis than the handing over of the Canal Zone to Panamanian dictator Omar Trujillo. At the same time author Judy Haisten was also in shock at finding the only home and life she knew taken from her. She was one of the thousands affected by the events I was witnessing over three decades ago, but her story, and those of thousands like her was never heard.
I read the memoir of her simple normal childhood in the Canal Zone with pleasure, yet with a sense of impending doom since I knew the inevitable outcome. Her life in the early 60s mirrored my own in many ways. I was a safety patrol just like she was. We listened to the same music, read the same comic books, and both learned Spanish. Like most kids of that era, we spent our summers outdoors, not venturing inside until dusk and supper called us.
Haisten’s simple clean style is reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. Like Laura she was the second of four sisters, and she tells of everyday life in a way that makes the reader smile and nod with pleasant similar memories. I am glad I read Judy Haisten’s story. It puts a human face to events I was witness to years before. It tells the bright story of growing up in the Canal Zone…and it’s sudden, dismaying end. ...more
This was one of three books I read together just to remind myself of the horrors of Hitler's regime, and how seemingly ordinary people can allow themsThis was one of three books I read together just to remind myself of the horrors of Hitler's regime, and how seemingly ordinary people can allow themselves to be a party to such evil. Never forget.
Apparently this book is in the planning stages for a movie version, supposedly starring Tom Hanks and maybe...if they are lucky?...Natalie Portman.
The book is an historical account of the American Ambassador to Germany just after Hitler's election and rise to power, but before the US entered the war. Like sending sheep to the wolves, I felt. I pitied the man, who was so out of his element, yet admired him too, for refusing to be sucked into the worst of ambassadorial excesses and blindness when other consular staff were more than willing to suck-up and turn a blind eye.
Mild manner history professor William Dodd takes the plum post as ambassador to Germany, not realizing he was by no means Roosevelt's first pick for the position. No one else wanted it. At least not anyone who had a grasp of politics and knew what they'd be in for. He goes to Germany in 1938 with his quiet but ambitious wife Mattie, his sexually promiscuous and indiscreet daughter Martha, and apparently somewhat lack-luster son William Junior.
Martha was the character in the book who constantly made my jaw drop. By the age of 25 when she went with her father to Germany, she was carrying on affairs with none other than writers Carl Sandburg and Thomas Wolfe, both of whom she corresponded with while in Germany. (Carl Sandberg?!! Who knew!!) She also was involved with film maker Sidney Kaufman, and married, albeit secretly, to millionaire Alfred Stern. While in Germany she carried on somewhat simultaneous affairs with Hitler's aid Ernst Hanfstaengl, first head of the Gestapo, Rudolph Diels, French diplomat Armand Berard (later French Ambassador to the UN), senior Luftwaff officer Ernst Udet, Soviet NKDV intelligence officer Boris Winogradov, grandson of the last Kaiser of Germany Louis Ferdinand, and was set up by Hanfstaengl to try to seduce Hitler himself. Her father was apparently clueless to Martha's intrigues. Later Martha and her second husband became spies for the Soviet Union and she fled the country living most of her life in what was then Czechoslovakia, although also in Cuba and Russia. My, what a who's who that girl bedded.
But that is just background info. What this relatively innocent and not particularly politically aware American family encountered in Germany is what the book is about. It tells of their delight in Germany at first, then their growing dismay and horror. And the fear. The Garden of Beasts has a double meaning: first, the Tiergarten, meaning Animal Garden in German, which was the one place in Berlin where Ambassador Dodd felt safe to walk and talk quietly in private with his fellow ambassadors and diplomats; second, it is a reference to Germany itself...a place of beasts.
The book is both enthralling and terribly sad. You know how things end, and you know it will not end well. But there are pieces of tiny bravery and light that even in the worst of times give hope, and the book recounts some of them as well. In many ways, for all his flaws, Dodd was an very brave man in a quiet modest way. He seemed utterly incorruptible in a time and place where corruption was commonplace. After Dodd was recalled, after war indeed was inevitable, he was seen then as the one who had been right, after all.
The book is a fascinating read, from a different perspective than one usually reads about WWII and the events leading up to it. I cannot say it is enjoyable...is any book about WWII enjoyable? But it is a book worth reading. ...more