In the Garden of Beasts: Love and Terror in Hitler’s Berlin

Erik Larson

In the Garden of Beasts: Love and Terror in Hitler’s Berlin

Berlin, 1933. William E. Dodd, a mild-mannered academic from Chicago, has to his own and everyone else's surprise, become America's first ambassador to Hitler's Germany, in a year that proves to be a turning point in history. Dodd and his family, notably his vivacious daughter, Martha, observe at first-hand the many changes — some subtle, some disturbing, and some horrifically violent — that signal Hitler's consolidation of power. Dodd has little choice but to associate with key figures in the Nazi party, his increasingly concerned cables make little impact on an indifferent U.S. State Department, while Martha is drawn to the Nazis and their vision of a 'New Germany' and has a succession of affairs with senior party players, including first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as the year darkens, Dodd and his daughter find their lives transformed and any last illusion they might have about Hitler are shattered by the violence of the 'Night of the Long Knives' in the summer of 1934 that established him as supreme dictator. 3.8 out of 5 based on 7 reviews
In the Garden of Beasts: Love and Terror in Hitler’s Berlin

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre History
Format Hardback
Pages 464
RRP £20.00
Date of Publication July 2011
ISBN 978-0857520425
Publisher Doubleday
 

Berlin, 1933. William E. Dodd, a mild-mannered academic from Chicago, has to his own and everyone else's surprise, become America's first ambassador to Hitler's Germany, in a year that proves to be a turning point in history. Dodd and his family, notably his vivacious daughter, Martha, observe at first-hand the many changes — some subtle, some disturbing, and some horrifically violent — that signal Hitler's consolidation of power. Dodd has little choice but to associate with key figures in the Nazi party, his increasingly concerned cables make little impact on an indifferent U.S. State Department, while Martha is drawn to the Nazis and their vision of a 'New Germany' and has a succession of affairs with senior party players, including first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as the year darkens, Dodd and his daughter find their lives transformed and any last illusion they might have about Hitler are shattered by the violence of the 'Night of the Long Knives' in the summer of 1934 that established him as supreme dictator.

Read an extract from the book | NYTimes.com

Reviews

The Washington Post

Philip Kerr

I found Larson’s book to be utterly compelling, and while I was reading it there were several occasions on which I had to stop and check to make sure it really was a work of nonfiction … an excellent and entertaining book that deserves to be a bestseller, and probably will be.

13/05/2011

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The Financial Times

Roger Moorhouse

I had anticipated that my historian’s sensibilities would be offended by Larson’s novelisation of history. Yet, In the Garden of Beasts drew me in and won me over. And, far from feeling dubious about the book, I concluded that it brings a fresh perspective to a familiar subject and makes a genuine contribution to our understanding. Most importantly, perhaps, it tells a fascinating story brilliantly well.

22/07/2011

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The New York Times

Janet Maslin

Powerful … [In the Garden of Beasts] would be smugly heavy-handed if it did nothing but emphasize the Dodds’ prejudices and naïveté. But it appreciates the ambassador’s inherent backbone, the mounting provocations that he faced, and the great dread he felt about having to deal directly with Hitler, once such meetings became inevitable.

19/05/2011

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The New York Times

Dorothy Gallagher

... an edifying narrative that has all the pleasures of a political thriller ... Larson has connected the dots to make a fresh picture of these terrible events.

10/06/2011

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The Spectator

David Crane

Larson’s is a compelling tale, and — appropriately enough to the greatest gangster story of the century — it is told in a sparse reporter’s prose that is oddly suggestive of Thirties films. It can, sometimes, descend into a specious kind of detail that substitutes trivia for any real sense of immediacy. It can, too, be curiously flat in the face of the Berlin of the Thirties ... but these are minor complaints against a narrative that makes such a brave effort to see history as it evolves and not as it becomes.

30/07/2011

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The Sunday Telegraph

Nigel Jones

[A] curiously compelling book … Larson’s indulgence towards [Martha] — as unpleasantly selfish personally as she was irresponsibly stupid politically — is the worst of his flaws. Sometimes, too, his homely prose resembles a large lolloping dog. But he presents a familiar story through fresh eyes, conveying quite wonderfully the electrically charged atmosphere of a whole society turning towards the stormy dark.

10/07/2011

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The Sunday Times

Dominic Sandbrook

Although Larson’s book has drawn high praise across the Atlantic, I am not quite sure why. His tale is well told, but it adds nothing to our picture of the early days of the Third Reich. Martha’s story — in the end she went off to visit the Soviet Union, married an American leftist and finally settled in post-war Prague — is entertaining enough, but her father was such a dry old stick that you almost wish the Nazis would bump him off.

24/07/2011

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