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In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin Paperback – January 1, 2011
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“By far his best and most enthralling work of novelistic history….Powerful, poignant…a transportingly true story.” —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 most important book of 2011.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“A dazzling amalgam of reportage….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.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“Fascinating...A master at writing true tales as riveting as fiction.” —People (3 1/2 stars)
“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.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Larson, a master of historical nonfiction, has written a fascinating book that, although carefully researched and documented, reads like a political thriller...highly recommended to anyone interested in the rise of the Third Reich and America’s role in that process.” —Jewish Book World
“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
“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
“Compelling...the kind of book that brings history alive.” —USA TODAY
“[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.” —Seattle Times
“A stunning work of history.” —Newsweek
“Tells a fascinating story brilliantly well.” —Financial Times
“A cautionary tale not to be missed.” —Washington 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 literature.”
—Christian Science Monitor
“Terrific storytelling.” —Los Angeles Times
“Vivid and immediate...a fascinating and gripping account.” —Washington Independent Review of Books
“Gripping...a story of stunning impact.” —New York Daily News
“Larson is superb at creating a you-are-there sense of time and place. In the Garden of Beasts is also a superb book...nothing less than masterful.” —Toronto Globe and Mail
“Harrowingly suspenseful.” —Vogue.com
“Larson has taken a brilliant idea and turned it into a gripping book.” —Women's Wear Daily
“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 books are tightly focused and meticulously researched, but they also are rich in anecdote and detail from the homey mundane to the tragic, the absurd and the downright funny. His prose has an austere, compassionate lyricism. His narratives have novelistic pull...his psychological perception and empathic imagination lend flesh to the documents, music to the ballrooms. He gives a throbbing pulse to the foolish and the wise, the malignant and the kind.” —The Oregonian
“A masterly work of salacious nonfiction that captures the decadent and deadly years of The Third Reich.” —Men's Journal
“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.” —Portsmouth Herald
“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
“Larson succeeds brilliantly…offers a fascinating window into the year when the world began its slow slide into war.” —Maclean's
“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 Tribune-Review
“[A] brilliant tour de force of nonfiction writing...Larson, as always, conjures magic with the details, and often injects a welcome dollop of dark humor...In the Garden of Beasts serves as both a serious, insightful look at history, and a stern warning against national complacency when you’re being run by a dictator who is both vicious and undeniably off his rocker.” —Dallas Morning News
“Like slipping slowly into a nightmare, with logic perverted and morality upended….It all makes for a powerful, unsettling immediacy.” —Vanity Fair
“A master of nonfiction storytelling...Larson once again gathers an astounding amount of historical detail to re-create scene after vivid scene...a stunning, provocative immersion...a call to citizens in all nations to investigate the motives of power brokers and government officials, to stand our ground when we see others' moral compasses going awry.” —Dallas/Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“No other author...has the ability to actually live up to that old adage of making history come alive. What Larson is doing is creating a world that no longer exists on the page...[He] not only succeeds but is able to turn what one would expect to be tedium into page-turning brilliance.” —Digital Americana
“Narrative nonfiction at its finest, this story drops into 1933 Berlin as William E. Dodd becomes the first U.S. ambassador to Hitler's Germany—a tale of intrigue, romance, and foreboding.” —Kansas City Star
“One of the most popular history books this year...offers something for both serious students of the 1930s and for lovers of charming stories.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“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
“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)
“An excellent study, taking a tiny instant of modern history and giving it specific weight, depth and meaning.” —Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
“A brilliant and often infuriating account of the experiences and evolving attitudes of the Dodd family during Hitler’s critical first year in power. With the benefit of hindsight, of course, the Dodds seem almost criminally ignorant, but Larson treats them with a degree of compassion that elevates them to tragic status.” —Booklist (Starred Review)
“Larson writes history like a novelist...conveying quite wonderfully the electrically charged atmosphere of a whole society turning towards the stormy dark.” —The Telegraph
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
About the Author
- Publisher : Crown; 1st edition (January 1, 2011)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 448 pages
- ISBN-10 : 030740885X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0307408853
- Item Weight : 14.1 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.2 x 1.3 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,982 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Martha Dodd dated a series of dangerous boyfriends in Berlin, including a Soviet spy and the chief of the Gestapo secret police. In what may be the most ill-advised matchmaking attempt in world history, a mutual friend even tried to set her up with Adolf Hitler himself, although it never progressed beyond one brief meeting between the German leader and the American ambassador's daughter.
Foreign Service Officers may find the description of the 1930s-era Foreign Service to be of interest. Half-jokingly described as the "Pretty Good Club," the Foreign Service was then comprised mostly of wealthy men who were able to spend well beyond their government salaries while overseas. Anti-Semitic attitudes were both common and socially acceptable in the State Department of that era, which helps explain why America failed so miserably to accept Jewish refugees from Germany during the 1930s.
Wisconsin residents and University of Wisconsin alumni may be interested in a supporting character in the book, Milwaukee native and UW-Madison alumna Mildred Fish Harnack. She had moved to Germany and was a friend of the Dodd family in Berlin. Although she was an American citizen, she stayed in Germany after the war began, organized a anti-Nazi resistance group, and was executed by the guillotine on Hitler's orders in 1943. The University of Wisconsin Law School has an annual human rights lecture series named in her honor.
Top reviews from other countries
This story is of course shocking, the rise of National Socialism (there was nothing socialist about it) Hitler and his gang of acolytes, the hate, the suffering, the rise and fall of Nazism, the death of democracy and the subjugation of an entire nation to the will of one man to dominate those around him. We have all read about what happened to Germany, an educated, civilised and cultured modern state turned into a living hell.
However for me this story is even more shocking than the writ large essays by leading historians who have covered this period endlessly. This story is about how all this affected a small and decent family from a far off land. How they saw at first hand how the Jewish community were being persecuted, how an orderly law abiding society was slowly changing into a thugs paradise. How the rule of law was perverted or more often then not just ignored, and how new laws were passed purely to allow certain members of society to be treated like criminals based purely on their religion. How these actions by a vindictive new force affected the family is just as interesting as what they eventually did to a nation.
The author has been honest with the reader and made it clear that these changes took place slowly over time, a new rule here, a new decree there, a beating in the street, a hanging in the park, communities put under siege, forced to move, forced to leave their jobs. All these incremental moves eventually added up and, as we all know, culminated in the Holocaust and the systematic murder of millions. The families struggles with what was happening all around them and how it affected each of them individually is illuminating and perhaps answers the often asked question as to how a cultured society was turned into a ferocious beast in a few short years.
Turning a blind eye, looking the other way, perhaps having little sympathy for the victims and holding Anti Semitic views, believing the crude lies of the propogandists, too little questioning of those in power, little or no oversight, or perhaps just too scared to stand out from the crowd and say something. People who did often lost their jobs or were turfed out of their homes or just disappeared one dark night after a knock at the door.
This is the shocking part of this story, how a civilised, cultured, educated and law abiding democracy became a beast through the democratic process. Germany wasn't invaded or taken over by a foreign power, the people voted for these changes and because of political unwillingness and/or cowardice allowed the beasts to gain power and draw the whole world into a conflict like non ever seen before.
Seen through the eyes of the family, the looming conflict of political isolation and possible world war is brought much closer, made more intimate. Stalin said "one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic" and it's the writers ability to describe many small or even trivial despicable actions that make the big picture more understandable. The daughter seems to have struggled the most with how to deal with the new regime and it's loathsome views, perhaps her youth, inexperience of politics and maybe a willingness to look away from the ugly side of this new world played a part in her getting confused as to what was right and wrong. Perhaps many German young man and women were conflicted the same way and decided to say nothing or look the other way. When your very life and the lives of others you know are at stake it's is understandable that you would feel powerless to do anything.
In the end this is a book about an American family and how they tried to deal with extraordinary times, but I suspect their story is not very different from millions of similar German families also caught up in a conflict perhaps just too big to manage.
Superior writing about a very dark episode in Europe's history.
It has two very good things going for it. First, it is an honest look at how real people viewed the rise of Adolph Hitler. And it is an honest look at how anti-Semitism played a huge part in those views. However, Larson doesn't condemn the characters for not protesting enough, or for their anti-Semitic beliefs, or even for openly accepting and admiring Hitler's government. Nor does he praise them in the end, when they finally realize how bad the situation really is. Rather he tries to understand their thoughts, feelings, and actions from their own vantage point and give us a good feeling of what it would have been like if we were there. It's a refreshing, more objective view of history and one I thoroughly enjoy.
The second wonderful part of this book is the feeling of walking the streets of Berlin. Larson has a good flair for narration and the reader is transported to those streets, and can feel, see, smell, and almost touch the sights and sounds of the end days of the Weimar Republic. I hope on my next trip to try and find some of those sights. The book had deepened my love and interest in the city and has opened my eyes to a part of its history I had thought to ignore.
As for history books, this is less a conventional history, and more a personal insight. There is a general overview of the events that led to Hitler's seizure of power, but if you are looking for a deeper reading, than Larson's book is not for you. This book is unlike his others and I don't think his intention was to write just narrative history, but rather to try and experience a historical moment from the eyes of its witnesses. Fascinating. Definitely worth five stars. I read it in less than 48 hours.