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In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin | [Erik Larson]

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

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....
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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

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  •  
    Gregg Smyrna, GA, United States 08-19-11
    Gregg Smyrna, GA, United States 08-19-11 Member Since 2013

    Nearly 1200 titles.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    93
    ratings
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    181
    32
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    4
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    "Erik Larson is a Master"

    Turning history into compelling story is what Larson does best, and "In the Garden of Beasts" does not disappoint. Narrator Stephen Hoye does a superb job, as well. Two thumbs up for both.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Starlet 08-06-11
    Starlet 08-06-11 Member Since 2013

    100% of the books I read are in audible format. I enjoy reading apocalyptic, WWII, psychology, classics, contemporary and non-fiction.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    82
    ratings
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    "Hitler from the beginning of his stronghold"

    Loved this book -- read it straight through. I have read a lot about Nazi Germany, memoirs and history of holocaust experiences and lives of Germans during that time. This book provided an entirely new perspective for me -- a political one. I’m always surprised when I hear about events beginning in Germany as early as 1933 and how sinister the activities were and to be allowed to continue for so long without interference -- I can now see what contributed to this, though -- so many factors including the US wanting repayment of Germany's debt to US creditors, thereby, staying close to them not wanting to offend and the fact that the American public was so wary of getting involved in the problems of Europe. It was a real eye opener for me and it was actually a story about America's first ambassador to Germany, during the 1930's, William E. Dodd....A real 5 star read.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Homebound Charlotte, NC, United States 07-29-11
    Homebound Charlotte, NC, United States 07-29-11 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
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    "Fascsinating narrative but utterly horrifying"

    A sad tale of Washington prejudice and blindness. A wonderful example of "don't confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up." The smug superciliousness of the State Dept. was infuriating. The recounting of events in Hitler's takeover was grim. The slow dimunition of the ambassador, sad. Reads like a novel,,sometimes too much so, but on the whole a, good book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Huntington Beach, CA, United States 07-26-11
    Thomas Huntington Beach, CA, United States 07-26-11 Member Since 2008
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    "Very well done"

    What a fantastic book this ended up being! To step inside the world of the ambassador and his family and view the rise of Nazi power from their vantage point. The author makes it very clear that this is not meant to be a complete history of the 3rd Reich but rather a small snapshot of some events that were witnessed. I found it riveting. The narrator Stephen Hoye was one of the best I have heard so far. PERFECT for this sort of book.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    lesley 07-12-11
    lesley 07-12-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "ruined by narrator"

    get this wonderful book in print. Stephen Hoye reads every sentence, every paragraph, every page in the same tone of voice with an identical, monotonous rhythm. Doesn't matter if he's reading about a Nazi atrocity or a beautiful day in the country...same inflection.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rochelle Mattoon, IL, United States 07-08-11
    Rochelle Mattoon, IL, United States 07-08-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Disappointed"

    I felt there was not much 'meat' to the story. An indulgent, spoiled and headstrong young woman and a mother and father who seem to stick their heads in the sand at every opportunity. The biggest revelation for me in this book was how some things going on early in the Nazi regime remind me of American politics today. The blatant actions and words of the Nazis early on were pooh-poohed by observers and denied after the fact by the German leaders who successfully whipped up a frenzied loyalty in many of their countrymen. Those Germans who didn't agree were afraid to speak up in fear of their life. No where near as good as Devil in the White City.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Macy's Gramercy, LA, United States 06-30-11
    Macy's Gramercy, LA, United States 06-30-11 Member Since 2009
    ratings
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    "In the Garden of Beasts"


    I wish I had not wasted my credit on this book. This man could have been reading the newspaper. There is history but no story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hal Miami, FL, United States 06-12-11
    Hal Miami, FL, United States 06-12-11 Member Since 2007
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    "Non-Fiction That Any Historian Could be Proud of"

    The amount of research that went into this book was amazing. He must of read nearly everything available in American, German, and Soviet sources - including many diaries.

    Professor Dodd was the central Character - but his daughter is was far more interesting. She committed nearly every indiscretion imaginable - and some of them several times.

    We will never be able to understand the Nazi era, but this at least helps us.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Woodbine, MD, United States 06-11-11
    Robert Woodbine, MD, United States 06-11-11 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Two stories: one compelling; one trivial"

    This book is actually two stories. One is about the experiences of the rather ineffectual American ambassador to Germany at the rise of Hitler's regime. This story offers a well written eye-witness narrative of the daily outrages suffered by citizens and visitors alike in pre-war Germany. The environment of hysteria and mistrust and ever-increasing anti-Semitism that gripped Germany following Hitler's rise is presented in chilling and effective detail.

    The other part of the book concerns the ambassador's sexually adventurous daughter who seems to have slept with half the diplomatic core and not a few senior Nazi officials as well. While her slow conversion from infatuated defender to horrified critic of the "new" Germany is interesting, it is trivial by comparison to the import of the larger issues the book addresses, yet almost half the book is about her experiences. Her obsession with describing and evaluating the physical appearance of each person she encounters reads like a superficial Victorian novel and I question the auther's decision to go into long details about the overwrought love letters she exchanged with various men. Eventually, I found the passages about the daughter so irritating that I fast forwarded through them so I could get back to the larger goings on between the US and Germany and within the German government.

    On the whole it's an interesting book that gives the reader a very good sense of what life was like for the priviliged few of Germany and the diplomatic core trying to restrain the worst excesses of the Hitler's government .

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara Cramston, RI, United States 06-10-11
    Barbara Cramston, RI, United States 06-10-11 Member Since 2013
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    "Great Book."

    A well narrated book that provides an interesting perspective into people and events during the rise of the NAZI party in Germany up to the start of the war as seen from the US ambassador and his family.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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