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In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlinby Erik Larson
The rise of the Third Reich as observed by William Dodd, America's first ambassador to Hitler's Germany, and his free-spirited daughter is the chilling topic of Erik Larson's impressive new book. With his gift for narration, Larson has once again created a work of history that reads as compellingly as a great work of fiction.
Synopses & Reviews
Erik Larson has been widely acclaimed as a master of narrative non-fiction, and in his new book, 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.
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 surprisingly 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 Goring 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.
"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. He surveys Berlin, circa 1933-1934, from the perspective of two Americans: Roosevelt's ambassador to Germany, William Dodd, an academic historian and Jeffersonian liberal who hoped Nazism would de-fang itself (he urged Hitler to adopt America's milder conventions of anti-Jewish discrimination), and Dodd's daughter Martha, a sexual free spirit who loved Nazism's vigor and ebullience. At first dazzled by the glamorous world of the Nazi ruling elite, they soon started noticing signs of its true nature: the beatings meted out to Americans who failed to salute passing storm troopers; the oppressive surveillance; the incessant propaganda; the intimidation and persecution of friends; the fanaticism lurking beneath the surface charm of its officialdom. Although the narrative sometimes bogs down in Dodd's wranglings with the State Department and Martha's soap opera, Larson offers 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. Photos. (May)" Publishers Weekly (starred review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Larson is a marvelous writer...superb at creating characters with a few short strokes." New York Times Book Review
"Excellent....suspenseful, [has] the feel of a John le Carre novel.” 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, Boxed Review)
"Chillingly portrays the terror and oppression that slowly settle over Germany in 1933." Library Journal
Book News Annotation:
In this readable narrative, author Larson (The Devil in the White City, Thunderstruck) offers a real-life, eyewitness perspective inside the Nazi hierarchy as Hitler came to power. William E. Dodd, a mild-mannered professor from Chicago, became the first US ambassador to Hitler's Germany in 1933. Dodd, his wife, their son, and their 24-year-old daughter Martha lived in Germany for about five years. Drawing on Martha's diaries and letters, much of the book centers on Martha's romantic affairs with high-ranking Nazi officials and her eventual heroism as she realized Hitler's true character. Meanwhile, her father William Dodd informed the US State Department of increasing Jewish persecution, with little response from the State Department. The book sheds light on why it took so long for the world to recognize the threat posed by Hitler. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Erik Larson is the author of the national bestsellers Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac's Storm. You can find him online at www.eriklarsonbooks.com.
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