In the Garden of Beasts

In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson

It took me a while to get around to reading this; I was feeling sort of lukewarm about it.  I had seen it at work for some time, but only got to it when I needed some reading material for my lunch break one day.  After that I decided to read the whole thing.  Everyone else has already read it, so you don't need much from me!

This is the story of the Dodd family in Berlin at the dawn of Nazi power.  Mr. Dodd was appointed to be the American ambassador to Germany in 1933.  He wasn't a typical ambassadorial type, but he was determined to uphold American ideals--while keeping the Germans happy, something that in retrospect the State Department seems oddly obsessed with.  Half the book covers Dodd's constant troubles as ambassador, and the other half focuses on his daughter Martha, who fancied herself as a dangerous intellectual.

Martha seems a bit of a ninny to me; first she's completely enamored of the new Nazi regime and then, when she figures out how dangerous they are, she decides that she quite likes Soviet Russia.  She engages in affairs with the head of the Gestapo and an NKVD officer, among others.  OK, she's a headstrong young woman who doesn't think ahead much, and people in the 1930s maybe didn't realize how dangerous things were, but good golly.

What I liked about Garden of Beasts was the portrait of Germany on the edge of disaster.  That was fascinating stuff.


  1. I'm interested in the idea of this, but I got SO BORED with the other Erik Larson book I read, I'm reluctant to jump in with another one. Dilemma.

  2. This was my first Larson book, and indeed it was pretty slow.


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