I just finished reading this compelling—and frankly somewhat terrifying—account by Erik Larson of the brief ambassadorship of William E. Dodd in Berlin from 1933 to 1934, at the time of Adolf Hitler’s rise to absolute power. Ambassador Dodd, an unassuming and scholarly man, is an odd fit among the extravagance of the Nazi elite. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. In the Garden of Beasts Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin Set in Berlin in 1933-1934, the book tells the story of America’s first ambassador to Nazi Germany, William E. Dodd, and his daughter Martha, as they experience the rising terror of Hitler’s rule. When looking for a home in Berlin, he writes, the Dodds found many good prospects, “though at first they failed to ask themselves why so many grand old mansions were available for lease so fully and luxuriously furnished.” The thrifty ambassador was at first pleased to rent at a bargain rate the home of a Jewish family in exile — and quite annoyed when the owner’s wife and children reappeared on the building’s top floor. ). What we read about in Larson’s book is the slow erosion of those values, and the passivity or permissiveness that gradually allowed all the normal restraints of civilized behavior to be abandoned. 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. Larson’s book is a timely reminder that vigilance and, when necessary, resistance are an urgent civic duty. Not that our new president* is a Hitler—I prefer to avoid the Nazi analogies, in part because they serve only to diminish the unmitigated abomination that was Germany’s National Socialist Party. There are individual accounts that personalize the atmosphere of mounting oppression and terror. We have already slipped deeper into callousness, animosity and corruption than most of us thought possible. A mild-mannered Chicago professor becomes America's first ambassador to Hitler's Germany just before the Nazis began to assert an iron grip across Europe. 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. I've seen the book promoted as a retelling of the classic French fairytale Beauty and the Beast and while The Beast's Garden pays homage to the french fairytale, particularly in the references to roses, this novel is based on the Grimm's The Singing, Springing Lark. His book was to be a study of the antebellum American South. “It was through the sheer, consummate stupidity of German diplomats.”. 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. Originally, I was searching the shelves at my local library for Chalice of Blood by Peter Tremayne, when at the corner of my eye, I see a book with a small swastika logo. Today is National Voter Registration Day! An insider's view of Hitler's rise, In the Garden of Beasts details William E. Dodd's time as the United States Ambassador to Germany from 1933-1937. Part of HuffPost News. And so were the extraordinarily candid, often unflattering records of his thoughts upon which Mr. Larson has abundantly drawn. They failed, notably, to condemn the conspicuous evidence of bigotry and cruelty they could not help but notice on the public streets, before their very eyes. His story has some important and sobering lessons for us at this critical historical moment in the USA. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson explores several crucial years in Berlin through the eyes of the US ambassador and his family. In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson: review. Larson’s nonfiction best-seller was earlier optioned for Hanks and Gary Goetzman to produce via the duo’s Playtone banner. Out of self-interest or self-preservation, the majority of Germans failed increasingly to challenge what they knew to be lies and propaganda, and allowed themselves to be swallowed up in a stinking morass of ignorance and barbarity. And it was his sense of history, not his morality, that made him savage the German vice chancellor who dared to profess ignorance at a party about why the United States had entered the First World War. Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost's next chapter. But he was 64, felt morosely elderly and thought that Germany might be a safe, quiet place for him to complete his writing project. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin Summary. Dodd was also the father of Martha Dodd Stern, an indiscriminate flirt who looked at a stint in Germany as a glamorous lark, and whose own abundant writing fills “In the Garden of Beasts” with outré remarks. “I was slightly anti-Semitic in this sense: I accepted the attitude that Jews were not as physically attractive as gentiles and were less socially desirable.” Thus spake the “slightly” opinionated Martha, whose remarks were unfailingly inflammatory and who quivered with excitement over the marvels of her new surroundings. We've comprehensively compiled reviews of In the Garden of Beasts from the world's leading experts. As Erik Larson, author of “The Devil in the White City,” points out at the start of “In the Garden of Beasts,” by far his best and most enthralling work of novelistic history, nobody named Dodd was the president’s first choice. “In the Garden of Beasts is a vivid portrait of Berlin during the first years of Hitler’s reign, brought to life through the stories of two people: William E. Dodd, who in 1933 became America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s regime, and his scandalously carefree daughter, Martha. in Book Review. “In the Garden of Beasts” has the clarity of purpose to see the Germany of 1933 through the eyes of this uniquely well-positioned American family. The Darkest Hour director Joe Wright is in final talks to helm an adaptation of Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts for StudioCanal and Tom Hanks' Playtone Productions, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. The troubled tenure of an academic US ambassador and his wayward daughter offers a fresh view of … 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. Other candidates had already shown their reluctance to do time in what, even before Adolf Hitler assumed absolute power, was an increasingly menacing Germany. Book Review: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson Tweet Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin is worth reading if only for the utterly surrealistic Chapter 42, “Hermann’s Toys”, which recounts a Sunday afternoon at Carinhall. It is a compelling read. Casually anti-Semitic themselves, these men—in Larson’s thoroughly persuasive account—were more concerned with matters of wealth and social status than with Hitler’s increasingly repressive policies and actions. NONFICTION REVIEW: "In the Garden of Beasts" An account of 1933 and 1934 in Nazi Germany through the lives of the new American ambassador, William Dodd, and his volatile daughter, Martha. “In the Garden of Beasts,” which takes its name from Tiergarten, the park across the street from this residence (though “Animal Garden” is a less lurid translation), would be smugly heavy-handed if it did nothing but emphasize the Dodds’ prejudices and naïveté. Genre: Narrative nonfiction. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the … As Germany prepared to deprive Jews of their citizenship, Dodd — only slightly less casually disparaging than his daughter — advised the president: “Give men a chance to try their schemes.”. About In the Garden of Beasts “Larson is a marvelous writer…superb at creating characters with a few short strokes.”—New York Times Book Review Erik Larson has been widely acclaimed as a master of narrative non-fiction, and in his new book, the bestselling author of Devil in the White City turns his hand to a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power. On our side of the Atlantic, however, things were not that much better. Their experiences serve as both a cautionary tale about the insidiousness of evil and a harbinger of the hard realization that the rest of America was forced to make in a few short years. Overview. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson This story covers the Dodd family and their lives amongst the beast machine of Hitler's Nazi Germany. The new ambassador was the fuddy-duddy, the man whose favorite way to end an evening was with a glass of milk, a bowl of stewed peaches and a good book. And the Berlin post was no plum. We have already witnessed crass behavior and political actions we deplore, directions taken that are alien to who we thought we were. Mr. Larson makes every aspect of the Dodds’ domestic lives reflect the larger changes around them. “I can never adapt myself,” he complained to Carl Sandburg — who was one of Martha’s many gentleman friends, and whose language in writing to her is one of this book’s many unexpected treats — “to the usual habit of eating too much, drinking five varieties of wine and saying nothing, yet talking, for three long hours.” But Dodd was forced to attend, host and pay for such events with his dutiful wife, Mattie. But Dodd was unusual. Crown, $26, 464 pages It is easy to see why Erik Larson ’s chilling book “In the Garden of Beasts” has zoomed to the top of best-seller lists. The terrible conclusion that we reach, in reading In the Garden of Beasts, is that, given vigilance, given honesty and integrity and sound judgment on the part of many, both within and outside Germany during those early years, Hitler could—and should—have been halted in his tracks. 4 train commutes and half an hour at home on Tuesday night. Nor are his acolytes, hopefully, the moral equivalent of the likes of Goebbels, Goering and Himmler. In his time, he was taunted, undercut and called “Ambassador Dud.” Hitler would refer to him in retrospect as “an imbecile.” Yet Dodd spent four years, from 1933 to 1937, in what was arguably the worst job of that era. As for FDR himself, though for the most part lending a sympathetic ear to Dodd’s warnings, he eventually surrendered to the isolationism that inspired the majority of Americans—the ignorant clarion call of “America First” that echoes, appallingly, once again today. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson is a non-fiction book published in 2011. “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin,” by Erik Larson. 03/29/2017 05:42 pm ET. If you need to flag this entry as abusive. As Larson portrays him, Dodd was an academic and a “Jeffersonian liberal,” a man of considerable integrity, who was clear-sighted in his understanding of Nazism and its goals, and prescient about its eventual militarist aggression. Steve Schmidt @egayle333 Ellyn, with respect Hitler was always clear about his intent. It is not only the German people who stood by, some even applauding, as Hitler and his Nazis first seized, then held on to power with vicious, unrelenting efficiency. Author: Erik Larson. Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. (Hitler felt withering contempt for the ambassador’s party-girl daughter, despite his show of courtliness.) So was the modesty of his ambitions. Directed by Joe Wright. Set in 1933 Berlin, it shares the story of America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Nazi Germany during a time in history that proved to be a turning point of events that still echo into today. Mr. The diplomatic establishment of mostly Ivy League graduates—a “pretty good club,” as they were happy to call themselves—was busy subverting the efforts of Ambassador Dodd to draw attention to what he saw to be a gathering storm of historic scale. We made it easy for you to exercise your right to vote. With Tom Hanks. Book Review of : In The Garden of Beasts Erik Larson has been widely acclaimed as a master of narrative non-fiction, and in his new book, the bestselling author of Devil in the White City turns his hand to a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power. Title: In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin. Not being an avid non-fiction reader (although I'm getting better about that), it is sometimes hard for me get through a book choc full of dates, geography and personal titles without either being royally confused or painfully bored. “I can tell you that,” responded Dodd, in one of his uncharacteristically dynamic moments. This, then, is the lesson for us today. No. In the Garden of Beasts at times seems derivative of a 1940 memoir, Through Embassy Eyes, by Martha Dodd, one of the main characters of his tale.Much of the material is the same, but we can forgive that because Larson fills in everything that Dodd herself felt obliged to leave out: It’s not every U.S. ambassador’s daughter who becomes a spy for the Soviet Union. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the … IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS: Book review. And he ultimately recognized enough reality, and clung to enough dignity, to make Mr. Larson’s powerful, poignant historical narrative a transportingly true story. She adapted to Berlin much more easily than her father did. There are hindsight-laden books that see the rise of Hitler as a parade of telltale signs. All rights reserved. Yes, this was a family that joked excitedly after Hitler had kissed Martha’s hand, advising that she not wash the part that his lips had touched. In the Garden of Beasts came highly recommended with fine words from distinguished American newspapers, it's a New York Times bestseller and has a … When they did meet, Dodd in top hat and tails, Hitler made a fool of him time and again. Acquired: From the publisher for review/at BEA. Interested, I gravitate towards the book and read the summary. The book is about a “button-man” named Paul. Unlike many of his wealthy, socially connected fellow diplomats, Dodd was a relatively impecunious historian, the chairman of the department at the University of Chicago, who dreaded the obligations that came with an ambassadorship. Trump is much more analogous to Mussolini. Their son, William Jr., was at 28 four years older than Martha when their father took the Berlin posting, and stayed much less visible than his highly dramatic sister. “In the Garden of Beasts” is, in the main, the story of William Dodd, a mild-mannered academic from Chicago, who to his own and everyone else’s surprise was appointed by … IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS LOVE, TERROR, AND AN AMERICAN FAMILY IN HITLER'S BERLIN by Erik Larson ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2011 A sometimes improbable but nevertheless true tale of diplomacy and intrigue by bestselling author Larson (Thunderstruck, 2006, etc. The Dodds’ story is rich with incident, populated by fascinating secondary characters, tinged with rising peril and pityingly persuasive about the futility of Dodd’s mission. Though she would become a popular author, live a long, complicated life and eventually be accused of spying for the Soviet Union, the young Martha favored breathless, thick-headed comments that no nonfiction chronicler of the Dodds’ misadventure would have dared to make up. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about … But it appreciates the ambassador’s inherent backbone, the mounting provocations that he faced, and the great dread he felt about having to deal directly with Hitler, once such meetings became inevitable. Garden of Beasts by Jeffery Deaver is an extremely thrilling read. “In the Garden of Beasts” has the clarity of purpose to see the Germany of 1933 through the eyes of this uniquely well-positioned American family. Without vigilance, we surrender out integrity slowly, by degrees; and before long we find that we have abandoned everything that was important to us, everything that defined who we are as human beings. 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