In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

TitleIn the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin
Author: Erik Larson
Genre: nonfiction (foreign policy, Hitler’s government)
ISBN: 9780307408846
Length: 365 pages
Published: 2011
Source: public library
Rating: 3/5
Resolutions/Challenges: Non-Fiction Resolution

Reason for Reading: I read an excerpt from Devil in the White City for a college course about 3 years ago and loved how Larson wrote in a way so that the book read a lot like fiction. (I have owned DitWC since reading that excerpt, but I haven’t read it yet.) So I figured this one would be the same, and the subject matter sounded amazing.

Summary (from Goodreads):

…unfolds the often startling story of William E. Dodd, the first American ambassador to Nazi Germany, and his family. History professor Dodd was an unlikely choice to represent the United States in Hitler’s Berlin; indeed, he was FDR’s fifth choice for the post. His on-the-job education in the barbarities of the “New Germany” sometimes contrasted with that of his romantic, impressionable, party-loving daughter Martha. Larson places these very personal stories within the context of the ever-worsening events.

My Thoughts: I was pretty neutral to this book. It’s pretty easy to sum up the entire book quickly. William Dodd became US Ambassador to Germany a mere six months after Hitler became Chancellor. He and his family lived in Berlin through the early years of Nazi spread and the growth of their power. Dodd didn’t intervene in German politics unless it involved Americans, which is technically just as he should have. A bit naively, Dodd believed–or at least didn’t counter–the Nazi officials, even Hitler himself, when they said they would stop doing such-and-such, or they would never do this-or-that.

I found the last 100-or-so pages the most interesting. Oddly enough, this is when Dodd had been removed from his post and the book just focused on what the Dodd family did upon returning to the US and the turn of events in Germany for the last few years preceding its invasion of Austria and Poland.

I didn’t dislike this book at all, but I’m not exactly glad I read it. It was a bit bland. I think this is due to much of the content coming from only two diaries/memoirs, Dodd’s and his daughter Martha’s. Yes, there were some other sources for information. But not too much.

And it was more biographical in nature than I thought it’d be. Not that that’s bad…


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