Author: Erik Larson
Published By: Crown Publishing Group
Date Published: January 1, 2011
Genre: Contemporary Non:Fiction
Pages: 365, Kindle edition
Recommended Age: mature adults
Reviewed By: Me
I received this book from Amazon. It was one of Amazon’s free Kindle books they were giving away on a particular day.
When none of the regular government politicians will take the post as the American Ambassador in Germany during the time of Hitler’s reign in 1933, William E. Dodd, a mild-mannered history professor from Chicago is given the post. Professor Dodd brings along his wife, son, and audacious daughter, Martha. Through Ambassador Dodd’s letters and journals and through Martha’s journals Erik Lawson tells the reader what Berlin was like during 1933 and 1934.
In the Garden of Beasts was okay. I liked being able to “see” what Germany was like through an American’s eyes. It shows that Hitler and his army treated anyone horrible that didn’t fit his view of the perfect German or follower. Even Americans staying in Germany for one reason or another was treated badly. It’s sad that a lot of people, mostly the Germans saw nothing wrong with how the Jews were treated; for example the one man telling Martha why a woman was being dragged through the street. It was because she was planning to marry a Jew. He was blasé about it; the man said it as if she deserved the treatment and was even disgusted that the woman would marry a Jew. It disgusts me that there were people like that. They actually believed that Jews were evil and were the cause of all their problems just because one man said so. It makes me wonder if these people were already subconsciously racists and were relieved to show their hatred for another race and culture that was different from theirs? Or were they easily manipulated and brain washed and not able to think for themselves?
I really didn’t care for Martha Dodd at all. She had to be an embarrassment for her father. I found her to be a self-indulgent slut who disrespected her parents’ home by bringing all those men in the house and having sex with them up in the family library. I also did not like that she had turned a blind eye to what was truly going on in Germany, even when reports were coming in about Americans being attacked. She always took the Nazis side, saying things like, “well, they must have done something” and she was also known to say she approved of what Hitler was doing. She believed Hitler was making Germany a better place. It was only when the injustice started hitting too close to home and affecting her friends did she open her eyes. I found her to be a very selfish, “it’s about me me me me” kind of woman.
I gave In the Garden of Beasts three stars and a grade of C because I really didn’t like it all that much. I didn’t like that the last 25 percent of the book was reference pages; it made the book seemed quite short in my opinion. Yes, I know that references must be included in any non-fiction work, but Erik Larson could have made the book longer somehow. It might have helped if it was more detailed orientated and more descriptive. In the Garden of Beasts seemed to just list the basic facts, pulled from journals and letters. It was quick and to the point.
It also seemed to talk more about how other people in America’s government was against Ambassador Dodd from the beginning, because he wasn’t rich and didn’t live flamboyantly like they thought an Ambassador should live. It seemed that the other government officials were constantly trying to put Ambassador Dodd in a bad light and embarrass him. They cared less about what Hitler was doing to fellow human beings. All they wanted was to be on good “party” terms with the German government and retrieve back the money Germany owed America. It also made the American President a push over, who listen to the men around him and did not follow his gut. I was quite disappointed in the President, as I was in this book. If you “see” what Germany was like through an American’s eyes, I recommend In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson.
Adult Content: some sex, heavy topics about the treatment of Jews and Americans in Germany
Violence: Some violence against Jews and Americans