Speaking as one who has a special interest in the whole Hitler phenom, and has read all I could get my hands on regarding this, for at least a decade, this book was a slight disappointment because it did not offer me anything at all new. The main idea of the book was supposedly one family's experiences living in Berlin during the Nazi's brutal rise to power, with all the terror that implies. But in fact, this was a US ambassador, his wife and two grown children. They were obligated to maintain certain social interactions with German government personnel, which came to include Hitler's people, and beyond that, the daughter did venture off on her own and form relationships with people she encountered in line with her father's status.
But at no time did this family actually experience anything like what the German citizens, not to mention those who were Jewish, did. In fact, the diplomat and his family members spent most of their couple years' stay there in near-total denial that Hitler would have done such things as they were witnessing with their own eyes. That part felt vaguely troubling to me, but not due to any inferior writing but rather because it reflected badly on the supposed American values that US citizens were supposedly living by, at home. It revealed a shallowness.
To step one bit further into this shallowness idea, it appears that the main reason for the ambassador to be there in the first place was to try to see to it that Germany paid the very substantial sums that were then owing to American businesses, that were at risk what with the turmoil going on in Germany. Even after some atrocities against the Jews came to light, the ambassador's main concern regarded that money. What the German government did to their own citizens was more or less an internal matter, even after the atrocities were known.
The 20 year old daughter Martha did indulge in a very free lifestyle including obvious affairs, some even with Nazi officials. She did not leave with a good reputation. But I see her as just an upper-class, spoiled American who was doing what probably many of the younger generation might do, given a chance to try out a privileged lifestyle in another country..... The world is not nearly so judgmental today as in the 1930's.
So, while the book did offer glimpses into both the changes taking place in Germany, and smaller ones into perhaps world reaction, including in the US, and it also provided quite detailed descriptions of the daughter's activities, and less so of the ambassador's, overall to me it read like tiny tastes of various items that would have held so much promise, had they been developed more completely. Since I was already versed in the subject, I did not feel too cheated, but I definitely would have, had I approached the book with a strong interest but without pre-acquired knowledge of the subject.
The narrator is one of my favorites, Even with a lot of German and a bit of Russian thrown in, he did a wonderful job. I could listen to no one but him and be happy.
In the Garden of the Beasts was the most interesting and entertaining out of the 3 Larson books I have read, which include Devil in the White City & Thunderstruck. This book kept you moving from story line to story line with less lulls than the other books by Larson. The story itself and the writing are his most compelling, this will be hard to top.
IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS
This is a well researched, tightly written story of the horror.
As the saying goes, "you can't make this s... up" and Larson and Hoyle do a superb job giving this Frankenstein life.
I found this book much more surprising revealing than I had anticipated. I was ready to dislike Ambassador Dod and his daughter from page 1, but was surprised by how, despite their many failings, this look inside their lives in Germany during 1938 - 1939 provided a totally different perspective. As their naivete diminished I gained an appreciation for how difficult it must have been for the Ambassador and how daunting a task he had to face.
The book is well written and entertaining while informative of the horrible events of that era. The narrator did a good job. I highly recommend it in every aspect.
This is a fascinating and well documented history of the US ambassadors' and his family's evolving view of pre World War II Germany. To watch Ambassador Dodd move from his obvious initial limitations to being taken seriously as a player in the foreign service to being a soothsayer about subsequent events was worth the listen. Added to that was the jouney of his rebellious adventurous daughter Martha from being a vapid socialite to a woman of some substance. All of this on the backdrop of Nazi Germany while "the emperor fiddled and Rome burned".
Martha fascinated me. She lead with her heart and other not to mentioned parts of the anatomy. Yet in doing so, she revealed to us many truths about the inner workings of the Nazis, SS and Russians during this important time in history.
A Grand Culture ruined by a small minded yet grandiose megalamaniac.
the details of their lives in Berlin in the 30's
Memorably sad, when the ambassador is removed for his principled public stand against the Nazi excesses.
His intonation can be singsong at times. His voicing of the quotations is very good, but the singsong detracts somewhat from the narration ("singsong" may be the wrong word but that is the best I can come up with to describe the intonation of his sentences)
See Nazi Berlin through the eyes of an American girl
A vivid account of one of the interesting stories that took place during this fascinating time and place - Germany and the beginnings of the Nazi takeover. A wonderful read, and extremely well read by Stephen Hoye.
Everyone in my book group was excited for this one, because the subject seemed so interesting. The problem is, in spite of how much was going on in the world at this time, NOTHING happens in the book. The people the author chooses to focus on are ultimately inconsequential and do nothing of consequence. So to try to make up for his protagonists' lack of importance, he includes vast amounts of detail and dozens of characters, few of whom end up being relevant or even particularly interesting. The book could have been half as long if the author had just focused on things that were actually important, instead of providing detailed descriptions of the weather, or a complete listing of every item in the ambassador's china cabinet (particularly grueling in an audiobook, where you can't skim).
Also irritating is the author's tendency to try to create suspense by ending every chapter with a portentous cliff-hanger-y tease: "Had they known at the time what was to come, they might have felt differently about it..." You can almost here the corny "Dunh dunh DUUNNNNNHH" sound cue. Really amateurish.
I really enjoyed this book. It was such an interesting glimpse of life in the Nazi era and how things got so bad without any intervention. And no matter what you think of the story, Erik Larson does an incredible amount of research, and it certainly shows. I was sad when the story ended, because I wanted to learn more about what happens afterwards.
The reader did a fine job. The story was comprehensive and told in Larson's style.
The most interesting aspect was the subject matter from a different point of view. The least interesting was that there was not much intrigue, but it was very good historical story.
Clear and dramatic