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)
Nurse by day, gangster knitter & book listener by night. Married w 2 girls, 3 dogs & many woodland creatures. Love Twain & meditation.
The audio version should be done by someone who actually read the book first and was concerned morewith emotionally connecting with the heart of this intense story than his priority for diction and enunciation. Its obvious we can deduce he wasnt the least interested in what the material was but how fabulously awesome he can clearly speak.
Plus- the protagonist is southern and the reader is determined to be without any distingishable accent.
History of hitler
Big bird would have done better.
The book is great. The performance ruins it. I recommend paper.
Can i get my $$ back???
A lot of friends recommended this book. For me, a mixed bag: narrator was over dramatic even for a book of such dramatic events. Despite evidence of class bias, anti-Semitism, politics and business interests, it still it not clear exactly why the US was so reluctant, blind or naive to Hitler's Nazi advance. Ambassador Dodd, a true student of history, could not come to terms with the facts before him until late in his tenure. In the end, a frustrating book and one that certainly marks the US and its allies as fools or, at worse, complicit in the advance of Nazis. What is stunning is how much murder and horror was afoot as early as 1934, many years before the US was directly involved in the fight. Dodd's daughter slept her way through the men of the early Reich and it is her story that is really..a story.
This audiobook was quite enjoyable, but due to the cast of characters I might have preferred to read a print version. It's quite long and sometimes I would forget who a character was and lose some of the plot. When reading a book it's so easy to skim earlier chapters to refresh ones memory. That's my only reason for making it 4 stars instead of 5.
After listening to this audiobook, one name I cannot forget is Putzi Hanfstaengl. The narrator is quite good - very pleasant voice and keeps you engaged by his manner of reading but after a while the name Putzi Hanfstaengl - just the distinctive way he pronounced it - made me laugh. It was a little annoying but actually I think the distinctive pronunciation of this and other names helped to alleviate the issue referenced above.
Stephen Hoye brings a lot of emotion to reading - especially when referring to letters or to conversations between characters such as Martha and Boris.
Loved this book, fascinating view of the times. I am not a history buff, but this did inspire me to read more books on the time period.
An in depth first person look at the rise of Hitler and an interesting perspective of the people and attitudes before WW2. Understand that this is a collection of narratives and dispatches that cobble together a story. It is not a masterwork of historical fiction like Devil in the White City.
Interesting view on history
Anyone who has coffee at breakfast. Hoye seems to have just woken up from a nap every time he reads. I hit 2x speed and enjoyed the book a great deal more from that point forward.
Prepare for detail!
Hoye!!! I was first annoyed by him during his read of 'The Killer Angels'. Great book and I thanked my maker when it was over because of his narration (2x speed once again deployed). Some people really really like him but Yeesh! Wake up man! I get the feeling that he reads the book the night before and then speaks really slowly so he can get through his day without flubbing a line. From now on I'll keep my eye out for this valerian laced murmurer and get on with my life.
The first thing I did after the listen was google Martha Dodd, the Ambassador's flighty, flirty daughter. Her social and sexual exploits bring flesh and blood to what could have been another dry, academic account of the rise of Nazism in Germany. Larson skillfully tells the story through letters, documents, diaries written by the protagonists and other real people who lived the events. In this era of instant communication, it's difficult to understand the naivete exhibited by the politicians and leaders when confronted on paper with the evidence of evil occurring in Berlin in the early thirties.
One thought, this story would not have been available if the Dodds had had email...wonder how many other great stories are lost to digital communication?
Very relevant to our times, more so than I ever anticipated seeing in my lifetime. Shows real people, real political dynamics that emasculate people's boldness and needed confrontation of obvious evil. Shows people's reluctance to truly believe human beings are so capable of such depths of evil - a naïveté regarding the potential of human nature. I've ALWAYS wondered how civilized people could allow such evil to arise amongst them. This book, coupled with current events, sheds great light on this dark period of human history. I just earnestly pray we learn from history that you can't appease evil ... You must recognize it for what it is and confront it with boldness regardless of any personal costs. The writing by Erik Larson and the reading by Stephen Hoye are both outstanding!
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!
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