Saturday, February 18, 2012

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

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin 
As promised, I finished up my next historical read.  This one, just like The Devil in the White City, is written by Erik Larson.  This work focuses on the story of American Ambassador Dodd and his family.  They were posted to Berlin in the years during Hitler's rise to power.  If you like Nazi history, this book is a fascinating read with lots of "behind-the-scenes" facts regarding how prominent Nazis were in the years before WWII.  
As someone who is already a voracious student of history, a lot of the Nazi information was not new.  In fact, I remembered quite a bit of it from a docu-drama I had seen back in high school about Hitler's rise to power (Hitler: The Rise to Evil).  The main point of interest to me in this book was the social aspect of the history.  Larson devotes a good deal of text to Dodd's daughter, Martha, and her role in high Berlin society.  She was interacting with high ranking Nazis on a regular basis, as well as conducting a love affair with a Soviet spy.

As with Devil, Larson writes in a style that feels more story-like than reporting.  I enjoyed the book for its short chapters and ease of reading.  However, Larson drops the story when Dodd returns to America a few years before the US joins WWII.  Obviously, that's where his role in the story of Berlin ended, but I'll admit that it did leave me feeling a little abandoned.  Because the book is set during a time that is a preamble to one of the most well-known periods in recent history, I felt a bit like it was reading a prologue and not the main story.  All in all, though, it's a great read, especially for anyone interested in German WWII history.

Pages: 464 pages
Genre: Nonfiction, Historical

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