Book Reviews: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson


Author: Erik Larson
TitleIn the Garden of the Beast
Narrator: Stephen Hoye
Publication Info: New York : Random House Audio : Books on Tape, p2011.
Books Read by Same AuthorThe Devil in the White City and Isaac’s Storm

Summary/Review:

This history and biography book explores the rise of the Third Reich from the perspective of one American family.  Specifically that is the family of William E. Dodd, appointed to be ambassador to Germany by Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Dodd and his adult daughter Martha are the main characters of the book.  Dodd initially is supportive of Hitler and shares in some antisemitic beliefs.  Martha, recently separated from her husband, enjoys the social life of Berlin and liaisons with several men including Soviet intelligence operative Boris Vinogradov.  Over time the Dodd’s became more aware of the violence and oppression of the Nazi state, and the ambassador begins to become more vocal in calling on the United States to oppose Hitler’s regime (which in isolationist America proves to be an unpopular stance).  This is an uncomfortable book to read.  The Dodd’s are not very likable people, but then they’re contrasted with Nazis.  No one comes off looking good.  Still this is an interesting glimpse into a troubling time in history.
Rating: ***