Saturday, March 8, 2014

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

In the Garden of Beasts
Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin
by Erik Larson
4 stars - well written
ALR Blue - no animals, just lots of bad people

This will be brief as I have stuff to do. That's just the way it goes.

In the Garden of Beasts is the story of William E. Dodd and his family during the time that Dodd was ambassador to Germany (beginning in 1933).

It's a great piece of writing and not as confusing for me as I typically find non-fiction books. The reader sees Germany in the early 30's during Hitler's rise into power and the associated struggles of people trying to make sense of what was going on.

As expected, a lot of denial and optimism that somebody as twisted as Hitler would never succeed in his mission. And of course, the all too human side of things because there is nothing implausible about the responses to what is happening "right under people's noses." By the time things go very badly, well, it's too late. 

It took me longer to read this than it should have. Not because it was a bad book or poorly worded (quite the contrary) but because the topic was so dreadful that my reading time tended to lose some of its allure. In fact, I think I'd rather walk the dog right now than dwell on this any longer.


  1. I'm in the middle of a book that gives me the same feeling right now. It just feels like you're wasting your time, right?

  2. I listened to this book last summer (while mowing the lawn) and found it very fascinating. It was a different look at the events from the inside and still is amazing at how bad things turned out.


  3. Howdy Nancy, this sounds like a book Colin would like. I've just finished a book that has broken my reading block. Check it out if you have the chance. Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent. 4/5 from me!

  4. What raises this already engrossing tale to even a higher level is Erik Larson's skill as a non-fiction writer that he has already displayed in his earlier bestsellers Devil in the White City and Isaac's Storm. Whether In the Garden of Beasts is a fascinating tale of past history or a cautionary tale of our times, it is a compelling read sure to both inform and titillate.
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  5. Anyone with even a casual interest in the events leading up to the war will find this an invaluable read. It's easily the best book I've read this year, and likely to stay that way. A truly wonderful read!

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