Smooches26, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by Smooches26)
Mr. Larson has an amazing talent for retelling factual history like it is a fictional story. I have an interest in history but always find the books so drab and boring. Erik Larson's books are my solution; I can't put them down once I start reading them.
"In the Garden of Beasts; ..." is no exception. The reality of life for ambassador Dodd and his family engulfs you. Feeling and witnessing the society of parties, censorship, intimidation, grand schemes, and of course, the unspeakable violence. "Watching" as the individuals realize the severity of their choices and how they cope with living among such chaos is fascinating. The book helps the reader understand the answer to the question of how Hitler developed into such a grandiose public figure. History should be taught in this way.
Joseph Landes, January 30, 2012 (view all comments by Joseph Landes)
In the Garden of Beasts is an incredibly gripping story about the rise of the Nazi war machine in Germany through the eyes of United States Ambassador William Dodd who was posted to Berlin from 1933-1937 and his apparently somewhat promiscuous daughter Martha who became a special agent for the Russians during that time. The story is gut-wrenching in places and in particular when they describe how Hitler began massacring not only the Jewish people but also his own leadership when he felt threatened by them. I finished the book challenged around my feelings for Ambassador Dodd. At times I felt he could have done more to broadcast with a stronger voice the plight of the Jews in Germany while others times I felt that he simply did not have the composition or stomach to do that. Overall a very good book and a good take on the American lack of response to Hitler and the Holocaust.
Kensington Reader, January 23, 2012 (view all comments by Kensington Reader)
" In the Garden of the Beasts," is a gripping non-fiction book that reads like a spy novel. The time is 1933 when a big mistake is made in sending a very middle class, non-diplomatic man and his family to Berlin to serve as ambassador. Of course we know what is going to happen, but he doesn't and makes a mess of his ambassadorship by his admiration for Hitler and having his single daughter date S.S. men. It was a scandal by itself, and in retrospect you might say how could they have been so stupid?
Eric Larson is also the author of "Devil in the White City," another true story that is written like fine fiction.
The Loopy Librarian, January 22, 2012 (view all comments by The Loopy Librarian)
Imagine being an American diplomat in Germany just as Hitler was coming to power. This unique perspective is granted the reader by Larson’s well-researched and infectiously readable book. Dodd was an unassuming and, in many ways, ill-suited and unlikely diplomat. He loved the Germany of his youth where he had studied, but Germany under Hitler was a whole different animal. Unlikely diplomat though he may have been, Dodd saw Hitler and the Nazi’s for what they were and tried in vain to convey his concerns to the US State Department and President Roosevelt. This book reads like a novel, but it is all the more striking because it is true. The players are very real, as is the terror and the tragedy. I wasn’t always riveted, but I was definitely engaged. The Dodd family and their friends and lovers were complex and the reader becomes invested in their lives. As the true horror of Hitler’s Germany dawns on them, the reader feels the tension and fear while sharing their sense of disbelief. A truly fascinating read!
Bill J, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by Bill J)
This book is about the interaction of two members of a family with the rise of Hitler. One is Roosevelt's first appointment as ambassador to Germany and the other is his daughter. The book is very informative and well worth the read!!
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.
by Michal D.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"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.
by New York Times Book Review,
"Larson is a marvelous writer...superb at creating characters with a few short strokes."
by Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review),
"Excellent....suspenseful, [has] the feel of a John le Carre novel.”
by Booklist(Starred, Boxed 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."
by Library Journal,
"Chillingly portrays the terror and oppression that slowly settle over Germany in 1933."
The little-known World War II espionage story of Spaniard Juan Pujol, who convinced Hitlers Abwehr that he had a ring of spies in Britain, only to pull off one of the greatest feats of any double agent: he fooled Hitler and disguised D-Day.
Were the D-Day landings saved from failure because of a lone secret agent?
Agent Garbo tells the astonishing story of a self-made secret agent who matched wits with the best minds of the Third Reich and#8212; and won. Juan Pujol was a nobody, a Barcelona poultry farmer determined to oppose the Nazis. Using only his gift for daring falsehoods, Pujol became Germanyand#8217;s most valued agent and#8212; or double agent: it took four tries before the British believed he was really on the Alliesand#8217; side.
In the guise of Garbo, Pujol turned in a masterpiece of deception worthy of his big-screen namesake. He created an imaginary million-man army, invented armadas out of thin air, and brought a vast network of fictional subagents whirring to life. His unwitting German handlers believed every word, and banked on Garboand#8217;s lies as their only source of espionage within Great Britain.
For his greatest performance, Pujol had to convince the German High Command that the D-Day invasion of Normandy was a feint and the real attack was aimed at Calais. The Nazis bought it, turning the tide of battle at the crucial moment.
Based on years of archival research and interviews with Pujoland#8217;s family, Agent Garbo is a true-life thriller set in the shadow world of espionage and deception.
“The book presses ever forward down a path of historical marvels and astonishing facts. The effect is like a master class that’s accessible to anyone, and Agent Garbo often reads as though it were written in a single, perfect draft.”—The Atlantic
Before he remade himself as the master spy known as Garbo, Juan Pujol was nothing more than a Barcelona poultry farmer. But as Garbo, he turned in a masterpiece of deception that changed the course of World War II. Posing as the Nazis’ only reliable spy inside England, he created an imaginary million-man army, invented armadas out of thin air, and brought a vast network of fictional subagents to life. The scheme culminated on June 6, 1944, when Garbo convinced the Germans that the Allied forces approaching Normandy were just a feint—the real invasion would come at Calais. Because of his brilliant trickery, the Allies were able to land with much less opposition and eventually push on to Berlin.
As incredible as it sounds, everything in Agent Garbo is true, based on years of archival research and interviews with Pujol’s family. This pulse-pounding thriller set in the shadow world of espionage and deception reveals the shocking reality of spycraft that occurs just below the surface of history.
“Stephan Talty’s unsurpassed research brings forth one of the war’s greatest agents in a must-read book for those who think they know all the great World War II stories.” —Gregory Freeman, author of The Forgotten 500
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