Erik Larson has been widely acclaimed as a master of narrative non-fiction, and in his new book, the best-selling author of Devil in the White City turns his hand to a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power.
The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.
A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first, Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany”, she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate.
As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance - and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.
Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming - yet wholly sinister - Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively listenable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.
©2011 Stephen Hoye (P)2011 Random House Audio
"In this mesmerizing portrait of the Nazi capital, Larson plumbs a far more diabolical urban cauldron than in his bestselling The Devil in the White City... a vivid, atmospheric panorama of the Third Reich and its leaders, including murderous Nazi factional infighting, through the accretion of small crimes and petty thuggery." (Publishers Weekly)
"By far his best and most enthralling work of novelistic history….Powerful, poignant…a transportingly true story." (The New York Times)
"[L]ike slipping slowly into a nightmare, with logic perverted and morality upended….It all makes for a powerful, unsettling immediacy." (Bruce Handy, Vanity Fair)
Great reader, good Lasron story. Not as good as Devil in the White as far as the story, but I did get a great sense for what it was like in 1933-1934 Germany and lead me to re-up on my history of the how such a terrible thing could happen.
This book was one of the best I have listened to. Just when I thought there wasn't anything new to hear about WWII and what led up to it, this book comes along! I felt like it got me more inside the Third Reich than any book or movie so far. A big claim, but that's how I felt as I listened. The author lays it out like a historian. Not to detailed, but yet plenty of factual information, at least for my tastes. The story of the daughter you have to read to believe. Holy smokes.
I read the book last summer and then listened to it in preparation for book club discussion in April. The reading/performance was wonderful, but it did point out some of the book's flaws--Larson gets into minute and irrelevant detail often and takes the reader into a spider hole that doesn't really improve the story much. Mentioning lipstick on a glass is not a detail worth writing or reading about. I think that Larson tried to fill pages in his latest book.
The story is fascinating because it has been overlooked for so long. It is the perfect topic for Larson for this very reason. It seems that he had to over-reach to meet marketing/sales requirements which would be very challenging after his blockbuster The Devil in the White City. Hard to top that!
I would recommend this if you have any interest in Hitler's rise to power and the US relationship to Germany prior to and at the beginning of WWII.
Martha's date with Hitler!
Excellent job with German!
The men and women who had a vision to bring the world fair to Chicago
Chicago World Fair and a Serial Killer - what more can you ask for.
In the Garden of Beasts is an in depth account of William Dodd (and his daughter Martha) in a time of history that I did not know much about. Most history books and movies about Hitler Germany focus on the years 1938-1945 and only the well-known characters, whereas this book is set in the early 1930's from the view of a not so well-known family. From Dodd's diary, you get an interesting perspective of the rise of Hitler in Germany and the role of the U.S. State Department. There is no grand finale to the book, as it only covers William Dodd's service time. It's a prequel to events we already know so much about (the Holocaust, WW2).
I'm a trucker of nearly 25 years. Listening to the radio is a matter of habit for me, but hearing the same songs over and over and OVER again became old. Audio books help those miles roll by faster!
I've wondered how a presumably educated, reasonable nation of people could allow the rise to power such terrible madness. This book answers that question somewhat from a civilian perspective. Good book.
I recently read a bad book about a great man.
If you have the slightest interest in history you will love this book. Oh my god I wish I was a professional critic because I would spend days writing the best critique of this book. I have listened to it 4 times. It has turned me into a WW2 enthusiast. Its one of those books that I am scared they will turn into a movie due to how precious and insightful it is. This is how children should learn history, fall in love with the characters and let a great writer like Larson put you in Berlin and kids will get into books such as this just like they do a great video game. I can't get over how great of a writer Mr. Larson is. Oh my god!!
haven't encountered the print edition
Rudolf Diels. Although he only figured in the book in a minor way, this portrait of a paradoxically moral man in the Nazi regime was very intriguing.
His voice is varied in tone without becoming distracting or overly dramatic
Dodd responding so bluntly to Pappen's question at the Little Press Club dinner, but then bravely and compassionately visiting him when he was placed under house arrest and threatened with death.
Mr. Larsen has a gift for illuminating historical events by focusing on the small details of peoples lives. Although the lengthy accounts of Ambassador Dodd's annoying daughter possibly take up too much of the book, her various relationships with the notables of pre-war Germany depict these individuals in a unique way. Also, the narrative shows how her initial admiration of the Nazi 'revolution
Very near the top
Larson's The Devil in the White City which is an all time favorite. Both read like a novel but give you so much exposure to accurate historical events..
I never felt that the narrator was any character but rather telling a true story about many flawed individuals.
The night of a killing in Germany when so many individuals lost their lives and then the spin put on it by Hitler. It seemed it was then that the German people were won over to Hitler' and his rationalization that he was defending and protecting the Fatherland against the enemies in their midst. Then injustice turned into something of a civic duty to the new and vibrant German spirit and the victims (the Jews) became a forgotten and reviled group with no particular face and to whom there was no particular allegiance.
This book depicts the subtle growth of evil which is not fully understood until it is too late.
It gives a good picture also of the fallibility of those in power who often do the expedient thing ie FDR.
Dodd is also a good example who in many instances is genuine in his effort to fulfill the duties of his job but aware he cannot be blind to the injustice that is taking place.
Martha comes across as a foolish young woman and all the Dodd family as a whole seems to me to be socially anti-semitic in their readiness to accept the norms of the time.
Stephen Hoye was a great narrator and I could actually hear every word he was saying
When Ambassador Dodd goes back to the US and realizes his word means nothing to those at the State Department and decides he should step down.
His narration brought out all the personalities throughout all the ethnicities. He actually made me feel sorry for some of the Nazi soldiers.
The book made me angry that the US was so isolationist at that time and wouldn't believe the horrible things that were going on in Germany or that it was their responsibility to do something about it. Really shows how its the people around a president who frame their policies. It also made me feel bad for Ambassador Dodd because he knew the right thing to do regarding his budget and the policies of Germany, but he got knocked down so many times that he finally had to stop getting back up.
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