Customer Reviews for

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

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

157 out of 162 people found this review helpful.

powerful book

This is the newest book by the author who wrote The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. If you are a history aficionado like me, especially if you are intrigued by Germany during the time of the Third Reich, then this is...
This is the newest book by the author who wrote The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. If you are a history aficionado like me, especially if you are intrigued by Germany during the time of the Third Reich, then this is the book for you. Through the eyes of the American ambassador to Berlin and his adult daughter, Mr. Larson shows in stunning fashion how the world was determined to ignore the warning signs, and thus the true intent of Hitler and the Nazi regime in Germany, until it was too late. This book certainly told a powerful tale. I am giving this one 5 stars, not because I loved the story, but because it made an impact on me and I will continue to think of it for quite a while.

posted by lsmeadows on May 2, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

146 out of 459 people found this review helpful.

BOYCOTT THIS PRICE!!!

Everyone, please start boycotting the prices greedy bookstores and greedier publishers are charging for nookbooks. B&N told me when I bought my nook last year that e-book prices would be much cheaper. This store needs to stand by what it advertised a year ago.

posted by Bandito on May 3, 2011

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  • Posted May 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    powerful book

    This is the newest book by the author who wrote The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. If you are a history aficionado like me, especially if you are intrigued by Germany during the time of the Third Reich, then this is the book for you. Through the eyes of the American ambassador to Berlin and his adult daughter, Mr. Larson shows in stunning fashion how the world was determined to ignore the warning signs, and thus the true intent of Hitler and the Nazi regime in Germany, until it was too late. This book certainly told a powerful tale. I am giving this one 5 stars, not because I loved the story, but because it made an impact on me and I will continue to think of it for quite a while.

    157 out of 162 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Great Read!

    The Dodd family moves to Berlin in 1933. Dodd is the US Ambassador to Germany appointed by Roosevelt. The book follows the family while they are in Berlin during Hitler's rise to power. This is a very intense look at what it was like to live in Germany during this time. Immensely informative and significantly disturbing read!

    81 out of 83 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 17, 2011

    A Fascinating Glimpse Into Prewar Nazi Germany

    I have always admired Erik Larsen's ability to mix period details with a personal story and "In The Garden of Beasts" is no exception. In it Mr. Larsen tells the story of the short term of William Dodd, a college professor who became the ambassador to Berlin in the early 30's. Called the "Cassandra of Diplomats" as he foretold the eventual rise of Hitler, Mr. Dodd was castigated by his peers in the state department for his frugal ways and low key manner. It also entails the story of his daughter Martha, who apparently slept her way through any male even remotely interesting. Mr. Larsen's story is well written and his prose creates the moods and feeling of prewar Berlin. Many famous figures float through his story and we know them all for better or worse when we are done reading. I recommend "In the Garden of Beasts" for anyone even vaquely interested in the period. I personally found it very hard to put down.

    40 out of 41 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 11, 2011

    Wow! A remarkable look into Hitler's rise to power and America's indifference

    This book really opened my eyes to the insidious rise of Hitler and his henchmen.

    I was amazed by how indifferent America was as Mr. Dodd tried so hard to open their eyes to Hitler's real intent to start war.

    The story is told in a realistic and very readable form. I had a little trouble getting started with it due to recent cataract surgery, but once I picked it back up, I almost couldn't put it down to go to sleep, or go to work or anything. I read the last 330 pages of it in two evenings straight.

    Eric Larson is a wonderful writer, who backs up his story with solid research. Kudos to him!

    I immediately began reading his book "Thunderstruck" as soon as I finished "In the Garden of Beasts". It will also be an excellent read.

    32 out of 35 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Haunting!

    Eric Larson has done it again! After a lackluster Thunderstruck, he has given us a skillfully written acount of the little know US's first ambassador to Germany during the rise of Hitler. The book perfectly captures the insidious evil of Hitler and his minions. Larson makes pre-World War II Berlin nightlife come alive as we watch Dodd's less-than-chaste daughter socialize with half of Fuhrer's posse. Even though you may not be a history buff, this book reads like a novel - pick it up, down load it - read it!

    27 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A wonderful non-fiction narrative

    This novel is so good you feel as if you are right there in the midst of all of these events (good and bad) that took place in the years before the Nazis decided that they should own Europe. Not since The Devil in the White City, another book by Mr. Larson published in 2000, has there been a book so well researched and captivating. In the year 1933, Mr. William F. Dodd, a Professor from Chicago, along with his family (wife, daughter and son) were sent to Berlin by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to become the American Ambassador. Mr. Dodd was the first Ambassador to Germany from the US and settled in Berlin during the year that was to become a turning point in history. Mr. Dodd, a fairly docile gentleman, was perfectly willing to accept the German politicians and their ways, which proved later on, that he was a bit overly naïve. Mrs. Dodd and Bill, Jr. were content with their lot in life and daughter, Martha, was extremely social and loved to party. Some of the handsome young men of the Third Reich were more than happy to show her the town. Martha was so impressed with these men that she had many affairs, one of them with the head of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But, as the days progress, it is evident that the new regime in Germany is starting a little "ethnic cleansing," as they say now, and the Jewish race and many others are being persecuted. These attacks against citizens of Germany are certainly not kept quiet and Mr. Dodd is getting very nervous and sending letters back to the State Department telling the President what is going on. Sadly, the State Department is very unconcerned about the letters and thinks that Mr. Dodd is crying wolf. Mr. Dodd watches the new laws passed by German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, and also the newspapers are censored as to what they can write. He even has a meeting with Hitler, where Hitler swore that he was not interested in starting a war. Unfortunately, Mr. Dodd believed Hitler and said so to the U.S. State Department. As Dodd's first year as Ambassador ends, the shadows of war creep forward. It becomes clear that Chancellor Hitler is arming Germany and biding his time before invading other countries and starting the 1000-year Reich. After a horrible night of murder and mayhem, Mr. Dodd is sure that Hitler is heading toward war. A wonderful non-fiction narrative that tells the reader that the United States did not realize what Hitler was doing behind everyone's backs until the invasions started and the world was at war. Quill Says: Even though this was a terrible time in the history of the world, this book is an absolute MUST READ!!!

    18 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2011

    The Odd Dodds Do Berlin

    You'd think an up-close look at Hitler's Berlin in the 30s would be interesting. Well it isn't, not here. I've loved two of Larson's previous books, so I'm sorry to say he goofed with this one. The truth about the Nazis is they're boring. It doesn't take long to get fed up. It's like spending time locked in a smelly, airless closet. Larson's vehicle for conveying it all, the midwestern American Dodd family with their social and cultural pretensions, appealed to me not at all. They could've stepped straight out of Sinclair Lewis, only Sinclair Lewis didn't write this book. So we get dinner parties, drives in the German countryside, house decoration, spats among Nazi officials and embassy functionaries, and Martha Dodd ever on the prowl. One more dinner party with the Dodds and their German guest list and who sat where and which of Martha's lovers showed up and how tense everybody was -- I thought I'd go off my nut with boredom. Ditto for Martha's love-trysts, complete with hokey dialogue I assume Larson got from Martha's own literary droppings. You're better off reading Wikipedia's articles on the Dodds. When I read the eye-opening one on Martha I was halfway through Larson's book. If I'd read it sooner I might've saved my money.

    16 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 15, 2011

    Very Disappointing! The Trifles of Diplomatic Life

    I'm honestly baffled by the positive reviews for "In The Garden of Beasts," a work that is nearly unreadable as a narrative history. I can only assume that Larson's readers remember the adventures and high drama of "Devil in the White City," a work of deserved praise. After a laborious three hundred pages of diplomatic dinners, infantile liaisons, minor diplomatic spats and walks along the Tiergarden, I was ready to consign Mr. Larson's recent work to the donation bin.

    Larson's protagonists, William E. Dodd, the first American ambassador to Nazi Germany, and his family (notably the vapid and promiscuous Martha, his daughter) are the epitome of American policy (and to a certain extent public opinion) as a whole toward the newly-born Nazi government; impotent, grossly naive and ill-prepared. Though Larson wants to draw this parallel, he fails to mention any detailed information regarding American views toward Germany, Hitler or the Nazi regime, with the exception of the American Jewish Congress. It's hard to decide whether Larson wants us to sympathize with Dodd or castigate him for behaving like a stubborn tenured professor. Dodd comes off as a dullard and, frankly anti-Semitic.

    Larson's failure to expound on the history of the Nazi party and several of the high ranking officials, relegating these figures to side-show status does the reader a great dis-service. His cliff notes version of the Nazi leadership is pathetic an lazy. When you compare this to the details regarding Martha Dodd's affairs and paramours, Larson insults the learned reader and indulges the tawdry side of this flawed history. Why quote or reference Shirer, when you have Mosse or Bullock? Why amble on and on about that love triangle between Martha, Biels and Boris, when you can actually quote from German newspapers reacting to Hitler's policies? This is a cheap history written for an ill-informed American audience.

    By the way......stop complaining about the price of "NOOK" books! You knew this was going to happen! Books need creative talent, time and research to complete. This is not the dollar store...If you would like, go down to your local INDEPENDENT bookstore and by it from them...its the same price.

    9 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2011

    Sorry Erik You Struck Out On This One

    His previous books were so well written and the stories so well constructed that when this was offered on pre-order I immediately did so.But I was very disappointed in what I got: a soap opera with Nazis occasionally showing up at the never ending embassy parties causing "tension in the air". Good grief, what a bore this was! I have to agree with other reviewers (The Dodds Do Berlin","Not Engaging", and " Not Worth The Money") and I only give this one star because the cover was kind of cool.Buy it only if you're having problems getting to sleep at night. Loved " Thunderstruck", "Devil in the White City", and "Isaac's Storm" so three home runs in four at bats is still Hall of Fame stuff. But I probably will not pre-order the next one.Keep swinging Erik.

    8 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2011

    A glimpse into the birth of evil

    If you want a glimpse into the world just before WWII and if you ask yourself how did civilized nations allow Hitler to take the world to the brink of destruction check this book out.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2011

    Disappointed - did not live up to promises

    Unlike so many others, I was not upset about the price...

    Had I not been between semesters with abundant free time, I would not have elected to even finish this book. The story lacked flow and, at times, was almost unreadable. This is from such a fascinating time in history and had so much potential to tell the story of a truly unforgettable and bizarre time in European and American history but fell short. I never felt a connection to the people in the story Larson was sharing. For a book about such an emotional time in history, there was little emotion within the text. The rave reviews and rankings within "must read" lists may have raised my expectations higher than anticipated.
    I have not read any of the other books of Mr. Larson's that also received such high praise (as indicated on the book jacket). Unfortunately, my disappointment with this book will bias me against other critically acclaimed books as well as Mr. Larson's past and future works.

    7 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 9, 2011

    Look through the eyes of the experienced

    An excellent read of the turmoils of one Ambassador and his family during the Third Reich's rise to power. Mr. Dodd was never seen as a good example by Washington standards but an intellectual with good diplomatic skills nonetheless. Dodd being from North Carolina was my main reason for reading and I was able to read of his stress being a Southern Gentleman farmer going through the spell of Hitler's Germany. The whole family is represented in this work and a grand description of a pious family amist the every extravgant Nazi Party.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2012

    Great Story, Good Read

    The rise of the Nazis from the point of view of the American Ambassador and his daughter. Sheds light on how a civilized Germany was led down the path of distruction through the stories of some significant but lesser known personalities of the mid 1930s in Germany.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Magnificent history, a la Devil, truly enlightening

    Best strict history I've read since Devil in the White City, and thoroughly enjoyable.
    Particularly enlightening is the feeling -- as you're reading -- that the U.S. was ridiculously isolationist and the State Department full of country-club socialites. Although the end of WWI left participants exhausted, depressed and bereft, it also left them unwilling to "rock the boat" as Hitler and his facists rose to power. Larson shows us this again and again... and the world inevitably is sucked into World War.
    Larson tells this story from a unique point of view -- the educated American family whose father was appointed US ambassador in 1933. Americans in Berlin seemed to ignore the unpleasant aspects of an encroaching crackdown, distracted by parties, culture and gossip. Ambassador Dodd slowly came to realize that Hitler's goals included European domination and the eradication of Jews. His convictions, framed in constant communications with other embassies, U.S. cohorts and FDR,
    The characters here are compelling, frustrating, sometimes despicable ... just as in life. Dodd's daughter Martha is particularly fascinating -- a frankly sexual, intelligent young woman who certainly seems to make the most of her circumstances. Dodd himself starts off a bit stodgy, ultimately brave, clear-headed, and quite misunderstood in the U.S. The correctness of his assertions becomes apparent only too late.
    This is an engrossing tale where quotes come from primary sources and the details of events draw you in. Larson has done his usual masterful job of focusing our attention on an engrossing tale. In DEVIL, you had parallel stories; here, the good and bad guys live in the same neighborhoods. The tension on Tiergartenstrasse must have been like a chokehold.
    MUST READ for any fan of history. Also, you might find a few parallels between early Nazi-ism and the more ridiculous elements of conservatives Americans.

    6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2012

    Great book!

    This is a great book that gives insight into Germany's path to destruction through the eyes of an American family. A fascinating true story, Eric Larson has done an excellent job with this one!

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2011

    Not engaging

    While I loved Devil in the White City, I could not engage with Erik Larson's new book. I read the entire book, but I felt like I was forcing myself to read it because surely at some point, it would get better and would feel like a story. It never did feel that way to me. I'm glad others have enjoyed the book, but it didn't speak to me. It felt very dry and, I'm afraid, boring.

    5 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I thought the book was fascinating. However, I could only give

    I thought the book was fascinating. However, I could only give it 3 stars, because it was kind of strangely written. The first 3/4 of the book were so crammed with minute details, that some of them seemed superfluous. Then the last few chapters were rushed. Like, how the beginning is a day by day by day account of every-little-thing. Then all of a sudden, it jumps from 1934 to 1937 with little detail at all. Had it not done that, I would have easily given it 4, or maybe even 5 stars.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 6, 2011

    Not worth the money

    Like a lot of things I have read lately this should have been a magazine article, not a book.
    The Dodds are not that interesting. The father seems to be a border line anti-semite himself, and the daughter was a shallow, somewhat round-heeled opportunist.
    There wasn't enough material here for a book and I wish I had saved my money.

    4 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2012

    Totally disappointed!

    After White City / and Isaac's Storm, I expected better than this.
    In my opinion the characters were flat and boring. I didn't care what the ambassador's daughter was doing, and so much of the book was devoted to her romances, just boring!

    This could have been a fantastic look at Germany pre-World War II but it turned out flat as a pancake. Too bad.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 28, 2011

    Great research

    - yet the Dodd family really isnt so interesting

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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