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In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin Hardcover – May 10, 2011
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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
"By far his best and most enthralling work of novelistic history….Powerful, poignant…a transportingly true story."--The New York Times
"Tells a fascinating story brilliantly well."--Financial Times
"Highly compelling...Larson brings Berlin roaring to life in all its glamour and horror...a welcome new chapter in the vast canon of World War II."--Christian Science Monitor
"Terrific."--Los Angeles Times
“A stunning work of history.”--Newsweek
“Larson has meticulously researched the Dodds’ intimate witness to Hitler’s ascendancy and created an edifying narrative of this historical byway that has all the pleasures of a political thriller….a fresh picture of these terrrible events.”--The New York Times Book Review
"Larson has taken a brilliant idea and turned it into a gripping book."--Women's Wear Daily
"Harrowingly suspenseful." Vogue.com
"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."--Louisville Courier Journal
"Electrifying reading...fascinating." Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Larson’s latest chronicle of history has as much excitement as a thriller novel, and it’s all the more thrilling because it’s all true.”--Asbury Park Press
"A superb book...nothing less than masterful."--Toronto Globe and Mail
“Even though we know how it will end — the book's climax, the Night of the Long Knives, being just the beginning, this is a page-turner, full of flesh and blood people and monsters too, whose charms are particularly disturbing.”--Portland Herald
"Larson succeeds brilliantly…offers a fascinating window into the year when the world began its slow slide into war."--Maclean's Magazine
"Erik Larson tackles this outstanding period of history as fully and compellingly as he portrayed the events in his bestseller, THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY. With each page, more horrors are revealed, making it impossible to put down. IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS reads like the true thriller it is."--BookReporter.com
"Larson's strengths as a storyteller have never been stronger than they are here, and this story is far more important than either "The Devil in the White City" or "Thunderstruck." How the United States dithered as Hitler rose to power is a cautionary tale that bears repeating, and Larson has told it masterfully."--Cleveland Plain Dealer
“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
“Larson's scholarship is impressive, but it's his pacing and knack for suspense that elevates the book from the matter-of-fact to the sublime.”--Pittsburgh Review
“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, 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(Starred Review)
Praise for Erik Larson
“A ripping yarn of murder and invention.”—Los Angeles Times
“Larson’s gift for rendering an historical era with vibrant tactility and filling it with surprising personalities makes Thunderstruck an irresistible tale.”—The Washington Post Book World
“Gripping….An edge-of-the-seat read.”—People
DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY
“[Larson] relentlessly fuses history and entertainment to give this nonfiction book the dramatic effect of a novel….a dynamic, enveloping book.”
—The New York Times
“A hugely engrossing chronicle of events public and private. Exceedingly well-documented, exhaustive without being excessive, and utterly fascinating.”
“An irresistible page-turner that reads like the most compelling, sleep-defying fiction.”—Time Out New York
“A gripping account…fascinating to its core, and all the more compelling for being true.”—New York Times Book Review
“Superb...Larson has made the Great Hurricane live again.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Gripping….The Jaws of hurricane yarns.”—Newsday
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I've read plenty of historical books on pre-WW II Europe, Nazi Germany and World War II. The power of this book resides in the personal connection one makes to Germany during 1933. The book creates a truly ominous and eerie view into the Nazi regime through Dodd and his families first hand accounts in a way that provokes more fear and terror than other pure history books. As a diplomat from outside traditional diplomatic circles, Dodd is scorned by career diplomats who scoffed at his concern about Hitler and the Nazi's and treated his "hard-line" diplomatic approach with disdain. Dodd longed to be at his southern farm, but duty called and he returned to a Germany far different than the one he studied in at the turn of the century. Even his daughter Martha, living it up in Berlin, finds the Nazi's intriguing at first. As their time in Berlin passes, she becomes as cognizant and clear about the true nature of the "beast" that they were living within.
Ultimately, Dodd's candor and perceptiveness about the true nature of the Nazi's created enough ripples in the American diplomatic community that his time in Berlin was just a few short-lived years. It is too bad since his successor had a remarkably naive view about the true ambitions of Hitler, much like the rest of Europe and the American diplomatic community until it was much too late.
"In The Garden of Beasts" is a breathtakingly original and invaluable contribution to early Nazi Germany. It doesn't provide the sweeping historical views or context other books and sources do, but it represents the type of inside view from an outsider that is truly chilling in its personal nature. Larson has written a first-rate book that will leave you with goosebumps they way parts of "Devil in the White City" did.
Though flawed, Dodd was a good man, who tried to do the right thing.
The book effectively captures the daily life in Berlin as the Nazis rose to power. A great read.
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