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)
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.
Everyone should read this book before voting in the next election. If anyone thinks what happened in Germany couldn't happen in the USA, this book should open their eyes. Great insight into the lead up to WWII. The distinction between Patriotism and Nationalism comes alive in these pages. Well written, well delivered.
Both the plot and narration are well done. Substitute Moslem extremists for Nazis and you have a good parallel for what is going on now.
I've been a history buff my whole life, and this really provided new insights into the run up to WWII. Unbelievably engrossing, and well narrated.
The volume of information in the book.
It's difficult to like this story. From the beginning, one feels frustrated at the family's admiration and affection for the Nazi elite; irritated at their inability to see the evil around them. But as the story goes on, the listener develops a grudging sympathy for Ambassador Dodd, who finally can see the evil represented by the Nazis, but is prevented from doing anything about it. The characters are not likeable. Dodd is self-important and feels himself smarter than others. Martha is only concerned with her own amusement both physically and mentally. Mrs. Dodd is almost irrelevant. And most of the rest are American diplomats and politicians who are ambivalent at best about the state of Germany, or, well, Nazis. At times, it's a difficult listen.
But it is well worth it for the sheer volume of information in the book. This is a behind-the-scenes look at Germany at the beginning of the Third Reich. One encounters Goebbels, Goering, Hitler, and others, through the eyes of Americans in Germany at the time. One sees how the rest of the world simply turned away as the monster grew. While valuable solely as a record of those days, it also has value as a cautionary tale in that it illuminates all the warning signs that herald an evil regime.
I found his voice a little dry, but given the story, it is a bit of a challenge to keep it animated.
It is very frustrating at times, as Martha is so shallow as to make the listener exclaim their disgust. It's also frustrating to witness the family's blindness to what we know is coming.
I found this book very, very engrossing. It is not only well-written, but perfectly narrated. You can read dozens of books on WWII, but this one is unique in that it is a tale of an American ambassador in Berlin during Hitler's rise to power. Once I completed the book, I did not feel that it was strong enough of a story to make it a 'great' book, and would not read it again. However, that's all hindsight. From start to finish, I did enjoy it and would recommend it to anyone interested in this era.
Yes, this is the second book that I have read from Erik Larson.
My next listen will be something light since this book was very intense.
Only to hope that people stop turning a blind eye to hatred.
This is an extremely intense book. To hear about the things that this American family, especially the daughter, saw and did while refusing to truly see all that was happening around them while Hitler and his henchmen were rising to power is infuriating.
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