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

Erik Larson
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,177 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $5.99
You Save: $10.01 (63%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Erik Larson, New York Times bestselling author of Devil in the White City, delivers 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 Nazi 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 readable 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.



Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, May 2011: In the Garden of Beasts is a vivid portrait of Berlin during the first years of Hitler’s reign, brought to life through the stories of two people: William E. Dodd, who in 1933 became America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s regime, and his scandalously carefree daughter, Martha. Ambassador Dodd, an unassuming and scholarly man, is an odd fit among the extravagance of the Nazi elite. His frugality annoys his fellow Americans in the State Department and Dodd’s growing misgivings about Hitler’s ambitions fall on deaf ears among his peers, who are content to “give Hitler everything he wants.” Martha, on the other hand, is mesmerized by the glamorous parties and the high-minded conversation of Berlin’s salon society—and flings herself headlong into numerous affairs with the city’s elite, most notably the head of the Gestapo and a Soviet spy. Both become players in the exhilarating (and terrifying) story of Hitler’s obsession for absolute power, which culminates in the events of one murderous night, later known as “the Night of Long Knives.” The rise of Nazi Germany is a well-chronicled time in history, which makes In the Garden of Beasts all the more remarkable. Erik Larson has crafted a gripping, deeply-intimate narrative with a climax that reads like the best political thriller, where we are stunned with each turn of the page, even though we already know the outcome. --Shane Hansanuwat

Review

"By far his best and most enthralling work of novelistic history….There has been nothing quite like Mr. Larson’s story of the four Dodds….The Dodd’s story is rich with incident, populated by fascinating secondary characters, tinged with rising peril and pityingly persuasive about the futility of Dodd’s mission....powerful, poignant…a transportingly true story."--The New York Times

“Reads like an elegant thriller…utterly compelling… marvelous stuff. An excellent and entertaining book that deserves to be a bestseller, and probably will be.”—The Washington Post
 
“A master at writing true tales as riveting as fiction.”--People (3 1/2 stars)

"Larson has done it again, expertly weaving together a fresh new narrative from ominous days of the 20th century."--Associated Press

""Mesmerizing...cinematic, improbable yet true."--Philadelphia Inquirer

"[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

“Dazzling….Reads like a suspense novel, replete with colorful characters, both familiar and those previously relegated to the shadows.  Like Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories or Victor Klemperer’s Diaries, IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS is an on-the-ground documentary of a society going mad in slow motion."--The Chicago Sun-Times

“[G]ripping, a nightmare narrative of a terrible time.  It raises again the question never fully answered about the Nazi era—what evil humans are capable of, and what means are necessary to cage the beast.”--The Seattle Times

"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, at...

Product Details

  • File Size: 3626 KB
  • Print Length: 466 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0307952428
  • Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (May 10, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004HFRJM6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,210 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1,502 of 1,554 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The evil that men do March 24, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It has been observed that for evil to win all that needs happen is for good men to do nothing. That was what the United States government did, at least officially, for much of the lead-up to World War II. Too often chances to speak out and try to stop the madness that was engulfing Germany were ignored. Too frequently the atrocities were overlooked. Too many times our response to the crisis over there was nothing, nothing, nothing...

But there were exceptions. George Messersmith, who worked at the Berlin embassy, was one of those who tried, often in vain, to bring about some change in the US policies, though he was often ignored as having too vivid of an imagination. So, too, were various Jewish groups in the USA, though they were often ignored for being Jewish. And, eventually, so did William Dodd, the United States ambassador to Germany, though he was ignored because, frankly, too many people didn't want to believe any of what was happening in Berlin.

Before reading this book I had a slightly better than average knowledge of the history of World War II and what led up to it. But even for me there were things to learn. I'd never heard of Dodd or Messersmith. Never heard of Rudolph Diels, or Ernst Hanfstaengl. I knew, at least a bit, about the Night of Long Knives and some what lead up to it, including Ernst Rohm's penchant for pretty young men, but I didn't really grasp much of what was going on that led up to it.

Now, thanks to Erik Larson's latest work, I know these people and I have a much, much improved understanding of what was going on in Germany from 1933 to 1938. Larson gives you a great "on the ground" view of what was really happening, what people thought was happening, what everyone said was happening and why the differences between these things matter.
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370 of 387 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History as a novelist might present it. March 30, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Erik Larson is not a novelist but his books on historical subjects are as beautifully written as if a novelist had written them. He has written about Chicago and the 1893 World's Fair, a terrible hurricane in Galveston, Texas, and a doctor/murderer in London. In all his books, he juxtaposes two events or characters and flits between the two. In this book, "In the Garden of Beasts", he presents the Dodd family of four in 1933 and the growing menace of Hitler and the Nazi party. It's brilliant writing at its best.

William Dodd was a professor at the University of Chicago and a product of a southern upbringing. He was mild-mannered and subtle, but fairly ambitious, career-wise. As a self-described "Jeffersonian Democrat", Dodd had come to the attention of newly-inaugurated Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 when Roosevelt and his State Department were looking for a new US ambassador to Germany. Adolf Hitler had come to power in Germany at about the same time as Roosevelt in the United States. Both faced Depression-wracked countries and both set about helping to heal the economic woes. Hitler's plans were much more ambitious at that point; getting out of the Versailles Treaty restrictions and cleansing Germany of her Jewish population were also on the agenda. Roosevelt's appointment of William Dodd as the United States Ambassador to Germany brought many questions from old diplomatic "hands" at the State Department as well as among Roosevelt's aides. Was Dodd "tough" enough to deal with Hitler? And, what WAS "tough enough" in dealing with Hitler and the growing German menace? And, what WAS the "growing German menace"? Lots of questions in 1933 wouldn't be answered until later; later, after "The Night of Long Knives", "Krystalnach", and the whole bloody butchery of WW2.
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401 of 422 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another telling work by Erik Larson March 26, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is the fourth book written by Erik Larson that I have read. In my view, this quartet is a pretty powerful body of work: The Devil in the White City, Thunderstruck, and Isaac's Storm)--and now In the Garden of Beasts. As with Larson's other works, there are several layers to this work. Larson begins by noting that (Page xiv): "This is a work of nonfiction."

At one level, this is a portrayal of a family. Key characters are William Dodd, an academic desperate to write a book on the South who finds himself oddly enough tapped to become the American Ambassador to Germany in the very early years of Hitler's rule of the country. There is also considerable detail given to Dodd's daughter, Martha. She was coming off a failed marriage and she (and her brother and William's wife) accompanied Dodd in his service in Germany.

At another level, the book is about the gathering horror of the Third Reich. Sometimes, Germany seems like a modern, civilized country. At other times, though, the darkness of Nazism manifests itself. One small vignette: H. V. Kaltenborn's advocacy of Germany--and his family's terror at a Hitler demonstration where they were frightened by thugs for not carrying out the German salute with the arm. Other small incidents that portend what is to come pop up over the course of the work, providing a dark backdrop to the surface story.

We see Dodd's interaction with key leaders such as Goebbels and Goring. We read of him trying to protect American interests while becoming concerned about what was happening in Germany. And seeing how his superiors did not want to hear negative reports from him. His daughter?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars In the Garden of Beasts
Dodd and his family are in Berlin right when Hitler is consolidating his power. While serving his country as ambassador, Dodd is exposed to the surreal characters that make up the... Read more
Published 4 minutes ago by Megan
4.0 out of 5 stars I highly recommend this book
Very interesting based on true events and people. A lot of the information for the books came from the diaries of the ambassador and his family of the events in Berlin in the... Read more
Published 1 day ago by Judyt
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read!
Very well written book dealing with the Third Reich. Ambassador Dodd's perspective on Hitler's rise to power is detailed from many angles.
Published 1 day ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ!
This is a fantastic book! If you want to know the truth about what the government knew just before and during Hitler's takeover of Germany, you must read this book. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Thelma Taormina
2.0 out of 5 stars Well Researched but Ultimately a Weak Read
Larson's clunky effort owes less to any question of his talent and more to the fact that he is out of his depth as a non fiction historian. Read more
Published 2 days ago by B. E. Mann
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
love it
Published 2 days ago by sasalagovic
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but a lousy ending...
Lots of interesting history, but an abrupt and unexpected ending. I'm not inclined to read any more of Larson's work based on this first impression. Read more
Published 2 days ago by LinzS
2.0 out of 5 stars my third Larson book, but not as good.
I was sorely disappointed in this book. While the historical research appears to be as thorough as any by Larson, the dialog was almost boring in some areas. Read more
Published 3 days ago by leboyd
5.0 out of 5 stars Berlin was a great city and it took all these years to come ...
What a shame. Berlin was a great city and it took all these years to come back. Berlin is finally back where it belongs in the world of great cities. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Walter F. Billings
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book explaining how life was in prewar Berlin and ...
Excellent book explaining how life was in prewar Berlin and Germany and giving a very interesting insight into Washington prewar politics.
Published 6 days ago by EDMOND HANSEN
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More About the Author

Erik Larson is a writer, journalist and novelist. Nominated for a Pulitzer prize for investigative journalism on The Wall Street Journal, he has taught non-fiction writing at San Francisco State and Johns Hopkins.

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