In the Garden of BeastsErik Larson

In the Garden of Beasts

4 star

Total 3,197 Ratings

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson Book Summary

Erik Larson, New York Times bestselling author of Devil in the White City, delivers a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power.

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Nazi Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.
    A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.
    Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming--yet wholly sinister--Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.

In the Garden of Beasts (Erik Larson) Book Reviews

Inside their pants & mindsI really appreciated how the book was both objectively factual and emotionally revealing. It really showed the deep personal struggles, denial, and strange brew of contradictory ideologies that were polarizing people on the international stage. The access Martha Dodd unwittingly gained thru her indiscriminate romancing also reveals the internal deceits, paranoia and calculated savagery of the Reich's inner circle..Score: 4/5

Insightful and intelligentI have read two of Larson's books and I am now an avid fan! His are the first historical books I've not been able to put down. Wonderfully written, entertaining and informative all rolled into one..Score: 5/5

In the Garden of BeastsThough this book chronicles events that take place in 1933-1934, before Hitler's rise to total domination is complete, there is a lesson for today's America. I found the descriptions of the various factions of the Nazi regime, and what they stood for, to be eerily similar to what we're witnessing taking shape among the right-wing evangelical Christians who are trying to assume political control of all facets of American life. (As a point of reference see, for example, Rick Santorum.) By reading this book, there's a lesson to be learned about those who wish to control without respect for the rights of others. What the Dodds witnessed was not only the beginning of the oppression of Europe's Jews, but the oppression of anyone whose views were not the same as those of this evil and maniacal government. There was no respect for differences of opinion. There was no respect for those who simply wished to live their lives without threat or fear. The rise of Hitler's Germany, in so many respects, seems to be the blueprint that the ultra-right in today's America is following in its quest for the White House. All should read this book and be warned that it could happen here..Score: 5/5

No terror....The subtitle is "Love, Terror, and an American family in Hitler's Berlin". IMHO the author only got two of the four right. I never felt the love or the terror. Admittedly, people fell in love (more like lust) and unspeakable things were happening everywhere but I did not feel either emotion while reading the book. The portrayal of the characters never came off the pages...they were flat without real personalities. It was my book club choice In the 7 + years of our club it was the first book that I was forced to skim thru. Unfortunate given the importance of this story in our history..Score: 1/5

In the garden of beastsInteresting history. The details of Martha's possible spying were given short shrift. Not much assessment of the ambassador..Score: 5/5

Loved itWell-written and intense.Score: 5/5

Interesting readI thought this was well done. It does get a bit dry at times and the author seems to keep things going often by revealing the details of Martha's romantic life which are sultry but become a little boring after a while. Still, the author's gift for writing is evident throughout and I found his viewpoint on the Nazis very grounded and refreshing. Any history buff should love this one..Score: 4/5

Fast moving personal insightGreat read. Let's you know who was the villain and hero in prewar germany..Score: 5/5

Eye OpeningI found this book to be just as engrossing as others by this author. Many anecdotes were new to me although the pre-war Nazi Germany period has been covered many times. A sad story of a well meaning intelligent man serving in a thankless, impossible position. The ambassador's daughter could not possibly have been a worse diplomatic family member and that makes for some jaw dropping stories..Score: 5/5

Good Book Not GreatIt was an enjoyable read but I honestly didn't get much out of it other than a good diversion..Score: 4/5

In the Garden of BeastsI learned a lot about per World War 2 Germany from this book. I was well-educated on the topic in both High School and then in college as an International Relations major, but this book revealed a perspective to which I was not previously exposed. It was most interesting to understand how the Third Reich slowly chipped away at people's sensitivities until they were able to get away with the most abominable forms of brutality and murder and justified it, not just to the point where society silently accepted it, but actually applauded it. And it was interesting to see it all through the eyes of a misfit of the finest democratic ethics and morality. I would recommend this as required reading in high schools so that our youth can identify what it looks like and feels like to have the government slowly take away freedoms and prevent it from occurring..Score: 4/5

In the garden of beastIt was good. But much to long.Score: 4/5

Not a good readNot a good story. Not interesting..Score: 1/5

AmazingI absolutely loved this book. If you are interested in WWII or German history this is it!.Score: 5/5

Larson's best?If you read Larson's works like The Devil in the White City and Thunderstruck, you know this isn't his best piece. I enjoyed Martha Dodd and Ambassador Dodd but both "characters" were flat and I never really cared about either. During several areas of the book, I felt as if I was reading a listing of daily activities with no details other than describing the day's weather. However, I was curious and enjoyed reading about Martha and her Russian lover. And, I did appreciate Larson's ability to hide the twist in their relationship- that I liked! If you like Larson, you have to read this book. It's good, just not his best..Score: 3/5

Not nearly his best workI'm about halfway through this book and losing interest. I love E.L. And have read both "Dead Wake" and "Devil in the White City". I loved both of those books. This should be a fascinating story of the Nazi rise told through the eyes of American observers. All of the characters and events are there but the story plays slowly and most of it is only mildly interesting. Martha's many lovers grow tiring. Dodd is a disappointed lead character that is unimpressive and hard to feel much for. Later in his life, he ran over a child by accident causing severe injury and immediately fled the scene. This gives you insight into the fortitude of his character. Perhaps another American character would have had a more compelling story. Disappointed..Score: 2/5

Get Ready!We all know about the horrors that slowly but surely rose in Germany,under the approving eye of HItler and his thugs. Ha! Read this book and you will soon realize how oblivious we all really remain. As you progress through these pages and read about the gradual but constant rise of evil, no longer recognized as such by the German people, you might become a little more aware of what is going on in your own country. I know I have..Score: 5/5

Zoom engsbeldTitle.Score: 5/5

Cautionary tale for our timeUsually, I read action adventure and thrillers, but this historically set narrative carries all the inducement of my favorite reads. How startling to me when what the book described found parallels in today's goings on. The saying goes that history repeats itself, unless the players make themselves informed..Score: 5/5

MediocreI was looking forward to reading this book as I am fascinated by this period in history and politics. I found myself bored in several sections, especially the first half and the more interesting sections were far to short. Ending was abrupt and unfulfilling..Score: 3/5

Fascinating, Disturbing & Downright Shocking!I downloaded the free sample of this book on a whim, and I'm glad I did. It's very well written, with a smooth, engaging style that transports you back to Germany during the rise of Hitler. Told from the perspective of Americans stationed there- the new Ambassador and his family- the author captures the uncertainty and unrest that followed the disastrous economic policies of the Weimar Republic. As the story heats up, their concerns grow to fear and downright alarm. It's hard to imagine now, but American tourists were beaten in the streets because they failed to return a Nazi salute. This is a captivating story and well worth reading..Score: 5/5

BoringThe book had some interesting stories, but I thought it was too long..Score: 2/5

In the Garden of BeastsAn absolutely fantastic book which will teleport you in time to the 1930's and pre World War II America and Germany! It gives great insight into the politics of Roosevelt and of the barbaric mentally unstable Adolfo Hitler. Set during the great depression in America it reveals the sights, sounds and the fear which grew into a new normal in Germany. The Ambassador to Germany Dodd, while prejudiced and I suspect not pro jewish himself still was able to foresee and speak out against the coming holocaust of jews in Germany which was downplayed by public opinion and later caused Dodd's own isolation. He was then opened to ridicule rather than being taken serious by the status seeking bean counters in our State Department who had finally gotten him fired by Roosevelt. It's a sad and scary tale of events which really occurred during this time period. An excellent book!!!!.Score: 5/5

DullHard to read since know what happens. Demeaning of daughter. Just did not like..Score: 2/5

Camino islandGreat.Score: 5/5

Could not put it down!This book, although historical, read like a novel. Exceptionally written. Could not put it down!.Score: 5/5

In the Garden of BeastsThis book is excellent - it is excellently researched, thrilling, chilling, and exquisitively enlightening - however, the ending is underwritten, and thus frustrating. I felt the same about Thunderstruck, but not Devil in the White City (one of my favorite books of all time). Definitely worth the read!.Score: 5/5

A Great ReadOnce again Erik Larson writes a compelling book that is a real page turner. I couldn't put the book down because it is a refreshing story in the early days of Nazi Germany. While I wished to have more details the book itself was very good. Popular history is something I rarely read any more because they always seem to be dumbed down for the masses. This is not the case here as in previous books by this author. I look forward to see what he has next in the pipeline. If you want something new And refreshing to read might I suggest picking this book up..Score: 4/5

Incredible.Incredibly well written, surprisingly gripping, and rich historical account. Highly recommended!.Score: 5/5

In the garden of the beastsDenial, appeasement, and compromise are as ineffective against tyrants and bullies as they are against cancer. That is brought to the fore as the theme of this 1933-1934 diary of the early days of nazi Germany. The book brings the reader, as a fly on the wall, into the bedrooms, embassy back rooms, and dinner parties of the principals, mainly through the eyes of the American ambassador, William Dodd and his daughter, Martha. The theme is timeless; the story is fascinating and well told; ttthe text is fast moving..Score: 4/5

Nice bookNice work Mr Larson, A bit long at times but a solid and interesting work..Score: 4/5

Sorry, but no cigar!As you can guess, I did not enjoy this book. To me it was just a compiling of interesting historical materials. I could not believe Martha wasn't shot or at least shone the exit door to Germany. Why didn't her parents the Dodd's ,exercised control over their daughter's every whim? I thought diplomats had control over their children. I also thought this book was about Mr. Dodd, not his daughter. thank you Susan.Score: 2/5

Read Like An Engrossing NovelThis is the first I have read this author and it left me wanting to read more from him and the subject. Great read could not put it down!.Score: 4/5

Where are the footnotes?I found this book fascinating, but I was disappointed in no being able to see the footnotes as I read. I could get to them, if I wanted to flip hundreds of pages, but I couldn't simply link to then because the don't show up in the text. Please fix this! DShinn.Score: 5/5

Great BookGreat book with a very interesting perspective on the events leading up to World War II..Score: 5/5

Nazi story brought to life unexpected.This book takes you back in time to an American family that got involved in Germany during World War II. The book was my first non-fiction that I read in terms of history involving wars. I am mostly a fiction reader and to read a story like this one blew me away. I wasn’t bored nor was I second guessing. The writing was good enough to keep me turning the page. Although I did get characters confused and the plot seemed to jump from one place to the other. I felt like I was an under cover agent in the ranks of the Nazi regime. This book will pull at your heart strings to make you say, “Aw man!” And also say, “No way?!” There were surprises here and there which I will not disclose. How the author described Hitler impressed me and I got to see Hitler for who he was instead of the constant hatred he had for the Jews. When it comes to mentioning the Jews, I think the subject was touched briefly upon. Yes they went through horrific things. To mention that a little bit per chapter kept that sensitivity to the story. I think without mentioning the Jews in this novel it would have read like a documentary. All in all, I recommend this book. If World War II is a touchy subject you don’t like then this isn’t for you. Because this novel takes the touchy subjects head on and morphs it into a story of discovery and self worth..Score: 5/5

Great story tellerMy favorite books are typically narrative non-fiction. I am glad to have stumbled upon Larson. This one had me the entire way through the notes section! I will now go read all of his others..Score: 5/5

In the garden of beastsAn insight into the horrors of man and how such things occured in a modern day society. How the rest of the world as proven in today’s world that such atrocities can continue to go on. A fantastic book that should be read by all!.Score: 5/5

Could not put it down.I don't generally read books about WWll but this is after all Erik Larson. I have never been disappointed by his work and after reading "In The Garden of Beasts" I am glad to say that it delivered everything I have come to expect from this author. The level of research is extraordinary in this oh so readable book. Mr. Larson is a storyteller of the highest caliber. His characters are so well developed you feel like you were there at these pivotal points of history. Fair warning, once you pick this book up you may find you can't put it down..Score: 5/5

In the Garden of BeastsVery good book. A great look at Nazi Germany leading up to WWII..Score: 4/5

Compelling Histo-NarrativeImmersive character portraits of a dark and rapidly passing generation. Reads with imagery of rich detail and precise, well-documented accuracy. A must read for those seeking to understand how true humanity and personality guide and influence the glossy, media accounts of our history, scandals, and events..Score: 5/5

Not his bestThis book is informative if you care for this particular point in history. The characters are not as appealing as in his other works. It gets slow at points, but I still found myself interested in what was to become of most of the characters in the end. The book does a good job describing what life must have been like for those involved at the birth of the third reich. It also paints a vivid portrait of America's view of Nazi germany in the early to mid thirties..Score: 3/5

In the Garden of BeastsI thought The Nazi era had examined from every angle. This book was a surprisingly fresh and personally intimate look at their reign of terror. Written from the perspective of the US ambassador and his daughter in the 1930s it makes for compelling reading. Well worth a look from those interested in this remarkable period of history..Score: 4/5

RivetingThis is a riveting detail of Germany in the 1930s as viewed by the Americans there. At times I felt I was watching a horror movie, with that urge to yell to the characters, "Get out! get out!" It was terrifying to realize how few people could see and understand the evil threat posed by Hitler. Even better and more compelling than Larson's "Devil and the White City.".Score: 5/5

Wow. Just wow…This mostly chronicled spectacle was impeccably researched, and horrifyingly captivating. One cannot help but wonder, what does the future hold for humankind during the next half-decade? Which prophetic voices will be heard yet inaccurate: which will be unheard and factual? History is the only observer who knows knows the truth for certain. Kudos to the author and the mostly forgotten-to-history Dodd family….Score: 5/5

InformativeI enjoyed getting a different perspective on this subject. Obviously many hours of research went into this book proven by the great deal of details that presented by the author. Now I want to read his other novels as well. Everyone who's interested in WWII history should read this..Score: 5/5

In The Garden of BeastsWonderful! I could not wait to read this book about a terrible time in our history. It delivered in every way. We should never forget and we should learn more. Silverswan.Score: 5/5

Good not greatInteresting view of the the rise of Hitler. Disappointing anti-semitism and America's concern that Germany would repay it's debts, helped evil grow while other stood silent.Score: 3/5

Good readFascinating.Score: 5/5

Decent storyGood enough story... Worth the time.Score: 3/5

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