Tag Archives: WWII

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larsen

(Finished September 20, 2011. I’m majorly behind on blogging so I’m fixing that today!)

This was another book on my summer reading list, and I got it in JUST in the nick of time!

Again, I’m showing my true colors with my WWII obsession. I knew this book would be pretty good because I’m halfway through another Erik Larsen book — The Devil in the White City — and I love that one. But for some reason In the Garden of Beasts didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

The thing that bothered me the most about this book is how the author focused SO much on the ambassador’s daughter, Martha. To be completely honest, the book felt more like a story about her many scandalous affairs and her party-loving ways. Martha’s story was great — and would have made for a great book on its own. But I felt like it was a distraction from the story of Dodd’s role as ambassador. And really, that was probably the truth.

I knew going into this that Americans chose to ignore many of the signs of Nazi Germany’s worsening treatment of human rights. It became more and more evident as the book went on just how these oversights occurred. It was infuriating. But what can you expect?

For example, the ambassador and his family rented their fabulous home from a Jewish owner of a bank. The Jewish man lived on the top floor and eventually brought his entire family to live with him. Here were prominent Jews feeling so persecuted and scared that they had to hide in their own home. Way before Kristallnacht in 1938. Right under the American ambassador’s nose. And he saw it mostly as an inconvenience. There’s something wrong with this picture.

Oh, and the Ambassador’s son was there too, but there was almost no mention of him in the book. I wonder what he was doing the whole time his sister was out gallavanting around Germany?

Basically, Martha’s story was what kept me reading. She got involved with a Soviet spy, met Hitler at a luncheon, dated senior (married) Nazi officials — I want a book just about her, please.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's BerlinIn the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Filed under biography, nonfiction