Erik Larson has set the bar very high for himself. Devil InThe White City and Thunderstruck were wonderful reads as was Isaac's Storm to a lesser extent. In The Garden of Beasts is not very engaging and it's characters are relatively uninteresting. The topic is also very tired.
I would recommend any of his other books over this one. It's really not worth the read.
Although not as much of a page turning thriller as Dead Wake, this tale of diplomacy during Hitler's rise to power is told with great attention to detail and emphasis on the human side of things. Ambassador Dodd's daughter Martha is the star of the show, as she runs around Berlin with Germans, Russians and Americans alike, while Dodd plods away behind a desk, trying to orchestrate a measured response to each of the increasingly brazen efforts by Hitler, Goebels, Himmler and Goering to rise to power. Larson' ear for dialogue is keen and punctuates many of the more dramatic moments of the book, thereby removing this account from the typically dry approach to diplomatic history.
Aa always, Eric Larson's ability to make history come alive is evident in this narrative about the year Hitler came into power in Germany. Told from the prospective of the unlikely US diplomat and his daughter, the rise of the Nazi party and precursors to World War 2 is painted clearly. Loved it and learned so much. Narration by Stephen Hoye is also exceptional.
Very interesting historical perspective of the American ambassador to Berlin during the Nazi rise to power. Easy to absorb, told very much as a story with some sections delivering a more standard history. Overall, I appreciated the unique perspective this book provided, to a time and place already heavily documented. I definitely recommend. It won't blow your mind but it is very good at illustrating the nuanced atmosphere of Nazi Germany, leading up to the war, and the struggles faced by those Americans who witnessed it firsthand.
The book covers one pivotal moment in time, (1933-37) and the rise to power of that awful monster Adolf Hitler and his cronies. William Dodd, has been appointed the American ambassador in Berlin. but he is temperamentally suited for the job, nor is his family. He has an academic background not political at all, he would much rather work on his book, but he feels drawn into what is going in the world around him. Throughout the book you can feel the psychological turmoil this man and his family must endure, as it traces his descent from a joyful state into one of stress, ending with major job dissatisfaction and depression. He ends up a sad old drudge, but along the way he runs into some of German history’s strange cast. In fact, the book’s best bits are on the Night of the Long Knives. His daughter, Martha, is a piece of work. She’s a combination of fun-loving, manipulative, sensual and self-righteous that seems to drive all sorts of men to distraction. And she does go through a lot of men. Eventually, she goes off in a direction that would have deeply saddened her ambassador father, I imagine. From Mata Hari to Stalinist in three easy years. The Dodd family members, who are as different as can be, seem to get along very well with one another during a difficult time. It’s a very memorable book, one any reader of that time period will find interesting on a more social level
Garden of the beasts doesn't have the same magnetic pull as devil in the white city. It's an interesting story but with so many negative opinions on the Dodds it's hard to invest in them.
Larson tells a story of the poisonous cloud of Nazi fascism slowly wafting in. No one really noticed. A little noxious smell - no real worries. American Ambassador Dodd,however, does see the casualties. Nobly he is never intimidated by Washington good old boys or Hitler's minions. He speaks out against the strangling implementation of Hitler's mad plan.
This is a perspective I never thought about. A very good "read."
I have read The Devil in the White City and thought that I would like to read another of his. This one was very well written and interesting. The reader was good. There were times I wished I had the text in front of me b/c I got names mixed up. But that really didn't affect the enjoyment.