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In The Garden of Beasts: Love and terror in Hitler's Berlin Paperback – 10 May 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan (10 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552777773
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552777773
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Larson's best and most enthralling work of novelistic history...rich with incident, populated by fascinating secondary characters, tinged with rising peril and pityingly persuasive...powerful, poignant...a transportingly true story." (NEW YORK TIMES)

"Fascinating...using letters and diaries, Larson - a master at writing true tales as riveting as fiction - creates a nuanced, eyewitness account of a father and daughter whose eyes thankfully opened as the horrors closed in." (PEOPLE)

"Reads like an elegant thriller...utterly compelling...an excellent and entertaining book that deserves to be a bestseller." (Philip Kerr Washington Post)

"Compelling...the kind of book that brings history alive to readers and proves why Larson's Isaac's Storm and The Devil in the White City were such hits." (USA TODAY)

"Larson has meticulously researched the Dodds' intimate witness to Hitler's ascendancy...has all the pleasures of a political thriller: innocents abroad, the gathering storm...a fresh picture of these terrible events." (New York Times Book Review)

Book Description

The extraordinary true story of intrigue and emerging terror at the American embassy in Berlin during the tumultuous twelve months that witnessed Hitler's rise to ultimate power in Germany.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By G. G. Curtis on 21 Nov 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
All William Dodd wanted was a quiet posting somewhere, somewhere where he would be able to realise his academic ambition, which was to complete his 4 volume treatise on The Rise and Fall of the Old South. He never did.
Instead he became U.S Ambassador to Germany, which left him no time to devote to his book. He arrived in Berlin in 1933; naive and totally unprepared for what lay ahead and ignorant of the reality of the evil that was emerging all around, the brutality and fear and persecution of German Jews, things both he and his family were to remain in denial of for quite some time.
This is a story of political intrigue and mistrust and betrayal, not just during a critical period in history but at the very centre of the vortex. And not just by Hitler and his entourage and the growing number of Nazi sympathisers and enforcers. Dodd did not have the 'right background' which did not endear him to those in charge back at the State Department, which we are led to believe was more like a rich boys club where tennis and cocktails and partying were more important for overseas diplomats than diplomacy; not only that, they did not want Dodd or anybody else for that matter 'rocking the boat, they too were clueless about the reality of Hitlers regime and his future intentions.
A fascinating account of the life of the American ambassador and his family in Berlin in 1933-34 against the backdrop of Hitlers rise to power and what went on behind political doors, not just in Berlin but in Washington too
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By R Helen on 22 Oct 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I lived in Berlin for seven years and have travelled there many times on other occasions. It is a city I love, but until now I have avoided spending much time on its Nazi past. I've visited very few of its WW2 museums or famous sites and, being Jewish, I have always found it tiresome that any mention of Germany or Berlin, immediately conjures up the Holocaust. So, I was actually reluctant to read Eric Larson's book. But, thankfully, I picked it up anyway and was pleasantly surprised to find that this book is quite interesting.

It has two very good things going for it. First, it is an honest look at how real people viewed the rise of Adolph Hitler. And it is an honest look at how anti-Semitism played a huge part in those views. However, Larson doesn't condemn the characters for not protesting enough, or for their anti-Semitic beliefs, or even for openly accepting and admiring Hitler's government. Nor does he praise them in the end, when they finally realize how bad the situation really is. Rather he tries to understand their thoughts, feelings, and actions from their own vantage point and give us a good feeling of what it would have been like if we were there. It's a refreshing, more objective view of history and one I thoroughly enjoy.

The second wonderful part of this book is the feeling of walking the streets of Berlin. Larson has a good flair for narration and the reader is transported to those streets, and can feel, see, smell, and almost touch the sights and sounds of the end days of the Weimar Republic. I hope on my next trip to try and find some of those sights. The book had deepened my love and interest in the city and has opened my eyes to a part of its history I had thought to ignore.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jim 8888 on 17 Sep 2011
Format: Hardcover
Having read - and been somewhat bored -by Larson's "Devil in White City", I wasn't expecting much when I began this book. I am interested in this period of history, the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party, much more so than in the war that was to follow. Perhaps this was why I became quite gripped by this historical account as Larson tries to imagine how it must have been to have lived in Berlin at the time the "Night of the Long Knives" occurred. What must it have been like to have moved in the circle of the men who brought the world to war?
In order to do this, Larson follows the diplomatic career and social life of William Dodd, posted somewhat reluctantly with his family as American Ambassador to Berlin in 1933. Very few others wanted the position due to the ominous portents already evident in Germany as Hitler extended his influence and power. Dodd's family went with him, and his daughter Martha was to fall in love with the city when she arrived as a young and vibrant American woman. The book focuses attention on many of the trysts she was to have with some of the intriguing and sinister characters who moved in political circles at the time, from men of the Gestapo to those working for the Soviets.
Larson, I think, manages to capture the growing paranoia and creeping terror that gradually infused the political elite while, at the same time, the lives and loves of the ordinary Berliners continued in near happy oblivion (providing they weren't Jewish, and weren't close to any Jewish people, of course.) Berlin is portrayed as quite a happy, content and pretty place, while storm clouds gathered literally and metaphorically in the distance. The main characters, including the Nazi high command, are well drawn and rounded, helping to give the story a humanity that is missing in many historical accounts. A good read then, and I think I'll put Larson back on my list of authors worth watching out for.
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