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In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and…

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's…

by Erik Larson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,5862561,047 (3.84)228
Recently added bySethAndrew, private library, pwoyna, kmhoy, janegend, cbfiske, amloeb, suzieqmckernan, juki2222
  1. 70
    The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer (kraaivrouw)
  2. 30
    Through embassy eyes by Martha Dodd (marieke54)
  3. 20
    I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years 1933-1941 by Victor Klemperer (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: The published version of Klemperer’s secret wartime diary are a vivid and personal account of day-to-day life in Nazi Germany. Writing with sophistication and insight, he records the stories of ordinary Germans and their hopes and fears during the dark days of the war. This provides interesting points of comparison with Dodd's experiences.… (more)
  4. 20
    Resisting Hitler. Mildred Harnack and the Red Orchestra by Shareen Blair Brysac (marieke54)
  5. 10
    Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: If you found In the Garden of Beasts moving and want to read fiction about the Third Reich, try Every Man Dies Alone, a haunting novel based on actual events surrounding a couple that attempted to undermine the Nazi regime.
  6. 11
    Red Orchestra. The Story of the Berlin Underground and the Circle of Friends Who Resisted Hitler by Anne Nelson (kraaivrouw)
  7. 02
    The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America--The Stalin Era by Allen Weinstein (spacecommuter)
    spacecommuter: Erik Larsen's In the Garden of Beasts draws on The Haunted Wood and the notebooks of Alexader Vassiliev as sources. The Haunted Wood mentions Martha Dodd, her romance with Boris Winogradov and her father extensively, and includes additional evidence of Martha's espionage that Larsen mostly omitted from his book.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 247 (next | show all)
Three Stars

Who doesn't want to start the year with a book about pre-WW II Nazi Germany? I mean, what better way to ease into an attempted double cannonball?

Despite the subject matter, this book is not a challenging read. I read Mr. Larson's book about the Chicago World's Fair (Devil in the White City) either last year or the year before and found it to be good but tough to get through. This book flowed better, although it didn't really end. I mean, obviously, it did, but it felt more like I was reading a very long and exquisitely researched magazine article than a book with a narrative arc.

In the Garden of Beasts follows the U.S. Ambassador to Germany from 1933-1934. William Dodd was a history professor in Chicago when he was asked by President Roosevelt to serve; he brought his wife and two adult children with him to Berlin. The story follows Mr. Dodd and his daughter Martha as they navigate Nazi German, when Hitler was Chancellor and there was still a President who was ostensibly in charge.

The main point of the book is that Dodd wasn't the typical old boys club rich kid ambassador and as such was a bit less interested in the economic issues that the U.S. State Department wanted to address and was more concerned with what was going on with Hitler, the SS, the SA and all the players who we now know were instrumental in WW II and the Holocaust. I have not read a book on WW II or the Holocaust since Diary of Anne Frank, so I can't claim that everything in the book is wholly accurate, but Mr. Larson is known for writing truthful and well-researched historical non-fiction by telling the stories of the people involved, so I assume it is mostly correct.

I'm not sure if I really learned much new by reading the book. I suppose I learned that the U.S. government was primarily concerned with getting back money from Germany as opposed to the oppression and murder of German residents. But I wasn't surprised to learn that. It sort of matches the priorities the political elite have always had: money first, then people – maybe, eventually, if there is time.

If you like history, and are interested in Germany just before WW II, I'm certain you could do worse than this book. Just don't expect a real beginning, middle and end. And be prepared, if you get the non-kindle-version, to mark out the swastikas on the cover. I get not burying that reality, but damn. I don't want to give people a heart attack while reading a book walking down the street that has a few scattered Nazi symbols on it. ( )
  ASKelmore | Jul 9, 2017 |
Was surprised by how little happened in this book with the main characters. Larson seems to leave you to make a verdict on their actions, although, to me, they didn't really stand out. What I valued most about this book was the detailing of Hitler's rise to power from 1933, i.e. His chancellorship and his capture of power upon the death of Pres Hindenburg. Would not recommend to my teen readers. ( )
  rdwhitenack | Jun 17, 2017 |
This was an engaging novelization of history. I say novelization because Larson weaves together a very particular kind of story about the Dodd family and 1930s Hitler in Germany. As fascinating as the dramatic tale was, Larson's obsession with Martha's overt sexuality and her many lovers was often needlessly speculative about who exactly she slept with and why. It was frustrating to read a complex woman boiled down to a sex-addicted thrill seeker. It was particularly noticeable due to the lack of depiction of her brother or mother. Again, this goes back to the very particular kind of story Larson wanted to tell about this time. ( )
  e2d2 | Jun 2, 2017 |
Excellent read. Focuses most heavily on the years 1933-34 in Berlin (and Germany) from the perspective of the US Ambassador of the time. Ambassador Dodd arrived in 1933, just as Hitler was beginning his rise to power. My only wish is that the book had included more about the remaining years during which Dodd was in Germany. Great insider's view of the events of those pre-WWII years. ( )
  bness2 | May 23, 2017 |
Amazing research. Fills in a lot of missing gaps. ( )
  ikeman100 | May 7, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 247 (next | show all)
William E. Dodd was an academic historian, living a quiet life in Chicago, when Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him United States ambassador to Germany. It was 1933, Hitler had recently been appointed chancellor, the world was about to change.

Had Dodd gone to Berlin by himself, his reports of events, his diary entries, his quarrels with the State Department, his conversations with Roosevelt would be source material for specialists. But the general reader is in luck on two counts: First, Dodd took his family to Berlin, including his young, beautiful and sexually adventurous daughter, Martha; second, the book that recounts this story, “In the Garden of Beasts,” is by Erik Larson, the author of “The Devil in the White City.” 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: innocents abroad, the gathering storm. . . .
added by PLReader | editNY Times, DOROTHY GALLAGHER (Jun 10, 2011)

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Erik Larsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cookman, WhtineyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nudelman, ElinaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself in a dark wood where the straight way was lost. - Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Canto I (Carlyle-Wickstead Translation, 1932)
To the girls, and the
next twenty-five

(and in memory of Molly, a good dog)
First words
Once, at the dawn of a very dark time, an American father and daughter found themselves suddenly transported from their snug home in Chicago to the heart of Hitler's Berlin.
"Hardly anyone thought that the threats against the Jews were meant seriously," wrote Carl Zuckmayer, a Jewish writer.
Even the language used by Hitler and party officials was weirdly inverted. The term "fanatical" became a positive trait. Suddenly it connoted what philologist Victor Klemperer, a Jewish resident of Berlin, described as a "happy mix of courage and fervent devotion."
"There has been nothing in social history more implacable, more heartless and more devastating than the present policy in Germany against the Jews..."
An odd kind of fanciful thinking seemed to have bedazzled Germany, to the highest levels of government. Earlier in the year, for example, Goring had claimed with utter sobriety that three hundred German Americans had been murdered in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia at the start of the past world war. Messersmith, in a dispatch, observed that even smart, well-traveled Germans will "sit and calmly tell you the most extraordinary fairy tales."
After experiencing life in Nazi Germany, Thomas Wolfe wrote, "Here was an entire nation ... infested with the contagion of an ever-present fear. It was a kind of creeping paralysis which twisted and blighted all human relations."
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William E. Dodd becomes the American ambassador to Germany, where he witnesses first-hand the atrocities of Hitler's regime and watches his daughter fall in love with a Nazi officer.
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They come overmatched Think easy job, not so Leave disheartened (foof2you)

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The bestselling 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.… (more)

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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