…and then to nearly weeping as I read Erik Larson’s narrative nonfiction book about the American ambassador to Germany during the lead up to WWII. This was a powerful read, especially knowing what we know now. There were people, like Ambassador Dodd, who knew what was coming. Sadly, there were many more people around the world who thought Hitler’s reign would be short and uneventful. This book isn’t to be missed by anyone who enjoys history.
The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.
A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.
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. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.
Have you read either of these? Do you plan on it? As always, I’d love to hear what you think!
7 thoughts on “Super Sad True Love Story & In The Garden of Beasts”
In the Garden of Beasts has been on my TBR list for a while because I've enjoyed several of Larson's books, but it's such a weighty subject. I haven't been in the mood just yet.
I have had Larson's book on my radar for some time. I really need to get to it. I am just finishing up a biography of FDR which of course touches on the diplomacy that Dodd was involved with.
I really enjoyed In The Garden of Beasts. It was a little slow at times, but overall a great retelling of that era in Germany…such a unique perspective! Have you read his other book (Devil In The White City)? I have it on my e-reader but haven't gotten around to it yet.
I can't wait to hear what you think of it. It's a heavy read about a heavy time. The amazing thing is that most people didn't have a clue about what was coming. (Well, amazing because we have the luxury of knowing just what did happen)
FDR was in a terrible spot in those years. No one in America was in the mood to go to war, that's for sure. We were in the middle of the Depression…blah blah blah, why am I telling you things you already know? 😉 I read bio of Roosevelt a million years ago. I'm always up for another! Will you be reviewing the one you read? I'll hop over to your site to see!
I haven't read Devil in White City yet but I want to! I want to read Isaac's Storm as well. They both sound so good and I love his writing. He makes history come alive 🙂
Hey jennifer -The book is Traitor to His Class by HW Brands and I will have a review up in a few weeks. He really became a leader in a most difficult time. However he leveraged his troubles into unprecedented success. He was truly an extraordinary figure.