Amy's Reviews > In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
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's review
May 10, 2011

it was amazing
Read in May, 2011

A common theme when discussing the events of World War II, especially the Holocaust, is often “how did the world let this happen?” In his new book In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson attempts to answer this question. Well known for his deft handling of narrative nonfiction, Larson combines a very human and personal story with the historical facts of the time. Focusing on the 1933 appointment of William A. Dodd as America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany, In the Garden of Beasts depicts a crucial turning point in history. Accompanying Dodd on his post are his wife, son, and his brazen daughter Martha. While Dodd’s story reflects an intellectual, diplomatic view of Berlin and the early days of the Nazi Party, it is Martha’s view that makes for spectacular reading. Martha is enthralled by the excessive parties and pomp exhibited by the Nazi’s as well as their desire to crate the “New Germany.” She enters into one love affair after another, including one with the chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. Larson neatly illustrates the attitudes of the State Department back in the US, as well as the attitudes of other foreign diplomats. Filled with tension and suspense, yet thoroughly researched, In the Garden of Beasts is an interesting lesson in world history and a compelling story, illuminating the issue of why the world did not recognize the threat posed by Hitler and the Nazis.
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