Wednesday, July 20, 2011

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

When I saw that Erik Larson, from "Devil in the White City" fame had a new book out I was immediately intrigued. I found his first book fascinating, but really had no other context of the story or the era in which it took place. However, I love WWII history, and with Larson's storytelling ability, I figured this ought to be pretty good. In preparation of our trip to Greece, I downloaded a couple of books, "In the Garden of Beasts" being one of them.

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After plowing through "Freedom" by Johnathan Franzen, which I actually hated, I was excited to turn my attention to something a bit more my speed. "In the Garden of Beasts" tracks the lives of Ambassador Dodd and his daughter during their first year in Germany, which is when Hitler was just rising to power. Dodd and his family move to Berlin in the summer of 1933 during the time when Hindenburg was still president and Hitler's power had not achieved its full potential. His daughter, who was in her early 20's at the time, seemed like she could have been from this era. She socialized and had relationships with many men, including the original head of the Gestapo, and was a potential suitor for Hitler himself. Not a typical girl of the 1930's.

When reading this book there were a number of times I was extremely frustrated. Watching these characters go through their interactions with Berlin and its leaders, believing that the country was headed in a good direction was mind boggling! They certainly did not have the benefit of knowing what we do today. It was so interesting to see how their minds and beliefs shifted.

Larson thoughtfully constructed this novel with careful details of all the characters involved. The research involved in writing such a book must be extremely time consuming. Everything done and said by the characters was verified one way or another. While the material is dense due to the nature of the topic, Larson's storytelling and writing ability makes the read not nearly as difficult as it could be. I walked away having learned a ton, almost not even realizing that it was non-fiction because of the ease in which I was able to read and follow along.

During 1933 and 1934, Berlin and Germany drastically changed and altered the world forever. This novel provides real insight on how it was possible for an entire nation to fall under Hilter's spell, and how many other countries watched it happen.

1 comment:

  1. I need to pass this review along to Adam - he just read Devil in The White City and has been raving non stop. I'm thinking this book is right up his alley!!


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