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

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

by Erik Larson
3.8 1066

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In the Garden of Beasts 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1066 reviews.
lsmeadows More than 1 year ago
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.
BookGirlNY More than 1 year ago
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!
purplegurl More than 1 year ago
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.
BarbAnn More than 1 year ago
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!
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
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!!!
cdmann More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
PepaLou More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
HarryVane More than 1 year ago
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.
soberfloyd More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'll pretty much read anything that might shed new light on the Nazi era, and WHY the things that happened did happen. I found this book to be well worth the time and effort, and for the most part, I enjoyed the book. That being said, it's not tremendously well written, and sometimes I struggled with his lack of clarity. The book offers some good insight into how American's of the era saw occurrences in Germany, and indeed, how what we would call blat ant racism was the social norm. Dodd, I believe was an honorable man, with the best of intentions, and tried to make clear what was destined to happen with the Nazis in power. Unfortunately, Americans didn't listen. This book is also a wonderful journey into the experiences of Ambassador Dodd's daughter, Martha. Almost a one woman UN, her "entertaining" of some prominent names of the time is a wonderful record of how the Nazis evolved, and took Germany down a hellish road with them.
LuckyLuLu More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be highly frustrating but all due to the subject matter at hand. I find it incredible still to read how much Hitler got away with all of the things he did. Its not a book for a casual reader. I still recommend it.
David Sutton More than 1 year ago
- yet the Dodd family really isnt so interesting
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Blitzismydog More than 1 year ago
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.
GrantForbes More than 1 year ago
The overall descriptions of Germany during the 1930’s used by Larson created a great amount of images in my head that truly helped me understand major parts of the plot. For example, “In Germany, Dodd had noticed, no one ever abused a dog, and as a consequence dogs were never fearful around men and were always plump and obviously well-tended." This quote underlines the societal customs of prewar Germany and his descriptions of the dogs created a plethora of thoughts in my mind about well-fed and respected dogs. The context used by Larson not only helped me get a better understanding of the story, but also the theme of the book. The following quote represents the theme by stating that people who try to seek power for only themselves for whatever reason will never prevail. “No system which implies control by privilege seekers has ever ended in any other way than collapse.” Finally, this book truly captures the reality of the world and thoughts of the German people. The written account of Hanfstaengl about Hitler provided me with the thoughts of a German, and his take on Hitler. “Recalling his first impression of Hitler, Hanfstaengl wrote, ‘Hitler looked like a suburban hairdresser on his day off.” Larson’s work is worth taking the time to read, and anyone that does will surely not be disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was hoping that this would be a good book for my 13 year old grandson who needed a good summer reading book. He is interested in military subjects and this sounded like it might be a good read. It was definitely not for him! Yes, there is the talk of affairs and sex, but mostly it is the complexity of the settings, events, and situations that discouraged me from offering the book to him. I'm glad I read it first! I am a firm believer that subject matter is of the utmost importance for good young adult readers. Just because they CAN read higher reading level books, doesn't mean that they SHOULD. This book is part of the Accelerated Reader system by Renaissance Learning, and has a reading level of 9.7 and a designation of "UG" for Upper Grades, 9-12. A young adult without the understanding of world history and much background in World War II would be lost and lose interest quickly. It would be over his head. That said, reading this book as an adult was very interesting and informative. Yes, the story reads in part like a cheap romance novel, but it was evidently an accurate portrayal of the Ambassador's daughter Martha. Having only a generic background in World War II, I was amazed by the details and timeline of Hitler's rise to power. The book traces Nazi development from the early 1930's through Ambassador Dodd's experiences as he slowly realizes what is happening in Germany. His attempts to be loyal to his mission as Ambassador are admirable as he tries to do his job of modeling the American ideals he believes in without condemning outright the downward spiral of Germany's abuse of human rights. People who are looking for a more detailed historical piece should heed the subtitle: "Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin." Erik Larsen has remained true to his objective and the subtitle is spot on. Although I cannot call this an "enjoyable" read, it was definitely worth my time and money. It was informative and interesting, and I look forward to reading more of Mr. Larsen's books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book! Should be read by those who find history books "borring" as book is anything but!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
William_O More than 1 year ago
Read with a biography of Dietrich Boenhoffer, "The Book Thief," "Guns at Last Light," and "No Ordinary Times" this book is well written, enjoyable and an important contribution to understanding the degeneration of German society in the 30's leading to the horrible Nazi/ WWII/ holocaust experience. Could it happen again?
bluelu More than 1 year ago
excellent inside portrait of an unsuspecting family of an ambassador appointed (4th choice as he later finds out), to Berlin just as Hitler & his band of 'beasts' start the revolt that everyone with few exceptions, mistakenly think will soon fizzle out - starts to take over and begin their brutal, bloody slaughter of unfortunates. on the surface all is parties & sparkle to visitors & the like but underneath it all is the ugliness & lurking slaughter of those of whom do not comply to the liking of the new followers of Hitler. it is a compelling story of suspense, truth, & the uncovering of a family whose eyes are finally opened completely to what is actually going on underneath the cover of the parties & ignoring of what is real & what is not. a compelling read. as usual Erik Larson has done his very suburb best!!!!!!