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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
An interesting listen of a American Diplomats family life in Germany and USA's isolation policies at the time.
I only really appreciated this book after I fnished listening to it. For the first half of the book, I kept thinking.....is there a book in here? The second part gets more interesting until finally at the end you relalize the importance of the author's work and the purspose in writing the book.
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