Sharply Opinionated Know-it-all. Gallows Humor. Hollywood Insider.
Larson's In the Garden of Beasts is excellent. He unpacks one of the most fascinating and studied moments in history and reveals the hard truth of hindsight. It's 20/20.
Sitting comfortably in 2013, we can pat ourselves on the back and say we would have done everything in our power to stop Hitler's rise. Indignantly, we will stomp our feet and judge the men and women who sat "idly by" and did nothing as Hitler and his thugs seized control of Germany and pulled the world into chaos.
But then Larson puts us in the moment - Berlin - the epicenter of it all. And without benefit of a crystal ball, we are left with the uncomfortable question: Would we truly have seen the danger signs? If so, would we have had the courage to act?
Perhaps those close enough to actually make a difference, were so far inside the belly of the beast, they could not see the teeth.
Me, myself, and I.
After Devil in the White City, an amazing tour-de-force, I was expecting quite a bit from Erik Larson. And while he doesn't disappoint with In the Garden of Beasts, it also doesn't quite live up to the lofty standards set in his earlier story. Still, it is a story worth exploring, with its building tension and "oh my god...really?" moments. The lasting legacy of this book, for me, is that, despite the number of WWII books I've gone through recently, it inspired me to spend at least a little more time trying to understand how the world plunged back into a world war, so soon after The Great War.
In this book, we spend time with a family that has been thrust, almost unwittingly, into the downward spiral of a totalitarian regime. Through their interviews, memoirs, private diaries, and more, we get to see life in Berlin in the early 1930s as both an incredibly lively and exciting place, and as one teetering on the edge of chaos. The rise of the Third Reich is told here in very personal detail. Through social interactions, political intrigues, and romances between young lovers, we experience the birthing pains of dictatorship, and wonder at its impact on idealistic diplomats and young adults.
I'd go deeper, singling out individual characters for their naivety or blindness, but I think that part of the intrigue of the story is the way these real-life figures try to make sense of what they've walked into. Spend time in Berlin in 1933, and I think you'll find it quite amazing, and depressing.
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.
Having just visited Berlin, this book resonated with me, as I could visualise the places where William Dodd and his family lived and worked. It is a sober story, without many ‘heroes’. But fascinating just the same.
Stephen Hoye does a good job with many difficult names and locations. His pronunciation, to my ear, was perfect. But I was disappointed in his cadence. It felt like he was reading in verse, with the same pattern applied to nearly every situation; lacking emphasis, or emotion that I thought was present in the text.
The narrator could not be bothered to learn German pronunciation. He is butchering the language and making it hard to enjoy an otherwise decent book. Shame on you Audible!
A detailed book that reveals not just the antisemitic horrors of pre-war Germany but also the mind boggling indifference and insensitivity of the United States in general and the US State Department in particular.
Amazing book presenting the life of the family of American Ambassador Dodd's family in Berlin during the brutal ascendancy of Hitler. Compelling and tragic story, well written and well performed.
It is said that people who don't study history are doomed to relive it (sorry can't cite it) This is an enthralling yet horrifying account of the rise of Hitler from the perspective of American diplomat and his family.
I first read Devil in the White City and fell in love with Erik Larson's novelistic style of telling history. This book was even better.
I generally don't do that, so that I can have time to pause and reflect and consume the material fully.
This was a book I just didn't want to end. It was rich in history and incredibly timely given the current political situation in the United States. An incredibly engrossing narrative history. I highly recommend for anyone who is a fan of history, international intrigue and human rights.