Book Review: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

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About:
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson is a non-fiction book about William Dodd, US ambassador to Berlin during Hitler’s rise to power. Mr. Larson is an American journalist and writer of non-fiction books.

  • 464 pages
  • Publisher: Crown
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307408846

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My rat­ing for In the Garden of Beasts— 4
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Thoughts:
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson tells the tale of William Dodd, an academic who was tasked by President Roosevelt to become the American ambassador in Berlin from 1933 to 1938. Dodd left his position as a professor in the University of Chicago. At the time Mr. Dodd thought this would be an easy assignment and would allow him to concentrate on a book he was finishing.

Professor William E. Dodd.jpg
William Dodd as a professor at the University of Chicago, shortly after his nomination to be Ambassador to Germany
By BillmckernOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39582005

As we all know too well, the turmoil in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s was anything but “easy”. To complicate matters Mr. Dodd was not a rich captain of industry on an adventure like many diplomats, but a frugal professor who angered many of his colleagues at the embassy and the State Department with his frugality, and they, in turn, threw him under the bus whenever they could..

To complicated matters, Mr. Dodd’s daughter, Martha, the second key character in the book, was a free spirit who befriended many of Germany’s up and coming politicians, Nazi and Soviet, as well as men of letters.

Mr. Dodd, an amateur diplomat unprepared was playing, was a vocal critic of the US policy of isolationism as well as the Nazi regime, even when his own government preferred to turn a blind eye. The book gives an idea to the growing feeling of fear as the power of the Nazi storm-troopers thugs elevated to the point where almost anything a brown-shirt did on the street was justified.

This book is an excellent look at the rise of Hitler and Nazism from the point of view of an outsider, a man sitting on the sidelines looking in. This book has great nuance, as is with diplomatic efforts, which Mr. Larsen captured gracefully. While it does not feel like a lesson in history, there is certainly much to learn and hope that we wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes again.

Buy In the Garden of Beasts from Amazon.com*
More Books by Erik Larson
C
heck out this & more World War II books on Man of la BookStore

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Dis­claimer: I borrowed this book from the local library.
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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