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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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (2856 )
5 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Tina LaGrange, IL, United States 05-24-11
    Tina LaGrange, IL, United States 05-24-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "Uninsteresting, Boring"

    There was nothing special or engaing about Dodd or his daughter. I had a difficult time keeping up with side stories and characters. Felt as though I needed an org chart.

    2 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Arnold-Burger 06-06-11 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Three Steps Backwards"

    I loved Devil in the White City and Thunderstruck. They are two of my very favorite books. Here Erik Larson takes three steps backwards and returns to the style of Isaac's Storm, only worse. This entire book can be summed up in one paragraph and save everyone a credit. It is boring. I kept waiting for the point and it never arrived.

    3 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MauiMe Boston 02-22-14
    MauiMe Boston 02-22-14 Member Since 2015

    MauiMe

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "VERY interesting"
    What did you like best about this story?

    This story was well researched and is told with colorful language. VERY interesting account of an American family in pre-war Germany as Hitler took over. Lots of fascinating details about Germany, Hitler, and how the United States (@ home and abroad) viewed Hitler's Germany. The characters were well developed. I had never heard any of these accounts before. Larson sure did his homework. Bravo!


    What about Stephen Hoye’s performance did you like?

    He managed the accents well. Did not over act. Nice pace, easy to understand.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Not extreme, but what I learned from this book is unforgettable.


    Any additional comments?

    I am glad my book club chose this to read. Good discussion book.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Galadriel 01-18-14
    Galadriel 01-18-14 Member Since 2008

    I have to admit that I'm a total Audible junkie. MUST have book going at all times. I may be the subject of a family intervention someday.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    328
    ratings
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    112
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    8
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Extraordinary"
    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes.


    Any additional comments?

    Very moving. Erik Larsen has a gift for breathing life into history's unsung heroes and lending dimension to it's well-known villains. Beautifully told. I understand there's a film in development. I SO hope it gets made, and made well enough to do the book justice.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    NB 01-03-14
    NB 01-03-14
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    51
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "As usual, Larson delivers great aspect to history"

    Detailed view into a riveting time in history. Larson always delivers.
    Narrator: although I am always very impressed with the feat of narrating an audio book, this narration let me down a bit when the German words were not pronounced correctly. I am German, but am not looking for accent-free pronunciation. But the stress and rhythm of the word should be reproduced, so the word is recognizable. I wish the producers would have put more emphasis on coaching these words.
    Otherwise a wonderful book - I highly recommend it!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe BOURBONNAIS, IL, United States 08-23-13
    Joe BOURBONNAIS, IL, United States 08-23-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Boring and Average"

    This author took what had to be an exciting time in Germany and reduced it to boredom. I thought that this book might shed some light on every day life during this time, instead it was a book about a ill-suited diplomat who was appointed by a distracted president and his boring time in Berlin. The only intrigue (if you can call it such) was his daughter's lack of morality and insistence on bedding just about everyone she came into contact with. There was no suspense, no great turning point for the family but just a boring account of probably the only boring diplomat in the world. The Night of Long Knives is reduced to a lackadaisical happening. I've heard good things about Larson. I had heard him compared to Hillenbrand; it isn't a fair comparison as he isn't in the same league. I hope this isn't his best work but based on this I won't be reading anything else written by Larson.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Allen, TX, United States 07-21-13
    James Allen, TX, United States 07-21-13 Member Since 2010

    I enjoy listening to books much more than reading. My favorite genres would be sci fi, history and fiction.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    "Lecture like"
    Would you recommend In the Garden of Beasts to your friends? Why or why not?

    If they were wanting a historical viewpoint on Germany prior to WWII then yes.


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    Overall this book was more like listening to a lecture than a story.


    Could you see In the Garden of Beasts being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    It is already a movie which I haven't seen.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Noreen WICHITA FALLS, TX, United States 09-22-12
    Noreen WICHITA FALLS, TX, United States 09-22-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
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    75
    43
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    "Garden Of Beasts A Different Side of History"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Yes, I would recommend this book, as a true story with Hitler and the horror of Nazi Germany is usually often stranger than fiction. This book has all the characters, time frame, and an unusual American Ambassador and his family to be amazing. I was just disappointed that it was told so lecture style. I felt the drama of the situations were not told well. Accurate but too much like an essay.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Erik Larson? Why or why not?

    Yes, and I have read "Devil In The White City" which I thought was better.


    Did Stephen Hoye do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    Very good. He can pronounce German very well. But this story gave him little opportunity to create voices for his characters.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    OH YES! A movie will give the characters more life.This should make a fantastic movie. The love story, the fear of Hitler and his diabolical plans, and the political intrigues sounds perfect for a good film-maker.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Citizen of Jefferson 05-17-12

    Minouche

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    "interesting topic, atrocious performance"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    First, I would have that book read by someone who has at least basic knowledge of proper German pronunciation.
    Is it too much to ask, to have a book brimming with German terms and names performed by someone who does not mangle each and every German word?

    Asides from those audible (sic!) issues, I could not really warm to any of the leading figures. Dodd seems to have been a misfit extraordinaire for the post of ambassador. He just couldn't rise above being a self-righteous, slightly desiccated dusty old professor, who felt intellectually superior to basically everybody.
    The petty squabbles with the embassy staff just proved to me that the man was not a leader but just an annoying failure as a diplomat, couldn't even motivate his own people.

    A true diplomat would have been much better suited to the position and by possibly seeing the bigger picture, a better choice for that important post might have effected changes instead of handing out affronts.

    All characters remain somewhat abstract and two-dimensional. The slutty daughter did not garner any sympathies from me either, and her having been a spy for the Soviets, was downplayed like an afterthought. I found the mere fact scandalous.

    In general, I felt like I wasted my time with that book.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter ASHEVILLE, NC, United States 04-19-12
    Peter ASHEVILLE, NC, United States 04-19-12 Member Since 2006
    ratings
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    "An aside in history."

    Although interesting, this book is rather boring. Also the reading is dreary and unimaginative. No effort was made to bring the players alive.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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