In the Garden of Beasts: Book summary and reviews of In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

In the Garden of Beasts

Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

by Erik Larson

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson X
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

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 surprisingly 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.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. An excellent study, taking a tiny instant of modern history and giving it specific weight, depth and meaning." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. In this mesmerizing portrait of the Nazi capital, Larson plumbs a far more diabolical urban cauldron than in his bestselling The Devil in the White City... Although the narrative sometimes bogs down in Dodd's wranglings with the State Department and Martha's soap opera, Larson offers a vivid, atmospheric panorama of the Third Reich and its leaders..." - Publishers Weekly

"Larson captures the nuances of this terrible period. This is a grim read but a necessary one for the present generation." - Library Journal

The information about In the Garden of Beasts shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Caitlin

Captivating and insightful
In the Garden of Beasts is an easy and captivating read. Larson's writing makes it seem like you are reading a fictional story instead of historical events. I learned things about Germany and the years leading up to WWII thanks to this book. Great read and I highly recommend!

Mary G.

How did we let Hitler's Germany happen?
Adolf Hitler was building his Aryan dream of control for 15 years before most of the world recognized it. Larson takes us to the Berlin of 1933, with a new U.S Ambassador and his family, and weaves a story that attempts to answer that question. He takes the time to let us get to know Dodd, and we already wonder if he's the man for the job. We meet his 24-year-old daughter Martha, and scarcely get to know his wife or older son...but it is Martha who shares the diplomatic spotlight with her father - in a most unusual way; I didn't like her very much. As an American who remembers WW II, it was enlightening to follow the Dodds around the Berlin of that time, to actually understand the people who looked to Adolph Hitler as Germany's Messiah. Dodd has been heavily criticized for his handling of his tenure, but Larson does not support that; I was horrified at the strictures diplomats must observe in fulfilling their mission. There are no battles, no bombings, no blood, but this is a look at the enemy that fleshes out our memories, that makes them human. And besides...it's a good read.

Becky H

In the Garden of the Beasts
Lovers of history will find this a fascinating peek at Hitler’s Germany. Everyman William Dodd is made Ambassador to Germany in 1933 almost by accident. Dodd, a professor at the University of Chicago, goes to Germany with his wife, an adult daughter in the middle of a divorce and an adult son. The daughter is enamored with the glitz and pomp of the German officers she meets and has a number of affairs while her father is increasingly at odds with the career officers who are supposed to support him and are actually undermining his eyewitness account of events. Dodd, increasingly aware of the persecution of Jew, the censorship of the news and newly instituted and frightening laws, is largely ignored back home by the State Department. The last fourth of the book deals with the mounting terror of the Dodds, the disappearance of friends and acquaintances and finally, the return of the Dodds to the US. Somewhat slow, with many pauses to insert background, the book is still compelling. Give yourself time to appreciate the detail Larson includes throughout the book. History geeks will find the 75 pages of notes especially interesting.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Erik Larson Author Biography

Photo: Mary Cairns

Erik Larson is the author of eight books, five of which became New York Times bestsellers. His book, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, hit no. 1 on the list soon after launch. His saga of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, The Devil in the White City, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and won an Edgar Award for fact-crime writing; it lingered on various Times bestseller lists for the better part of a decade. Hulu plans to adapt the book for a limited TV series, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese as executive producers. Erik's In the Garden of Beasts, about how America's first ambassador to Nazi Germany and his daughter experienced the rising terror of Hitler's rule, has been optioned by Tom Hanks for development as a feature film.

Erik's first book of ...

... Full Biography
Author Interview
Link to Erik Larson's Website

Other books by Erik Larson at BookBrowse
  • Thunderstruck jacket
  • The Splendid and the Vile jacket
  • The Devil in the White City jacket

6 more...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more history, science & current affairs...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Caste
    Caste
    by Isabel Wilkerson
    In 2020, the word "racist" remains taboo. Conceptually, racism is so culturally unacceptable, so ...
  • Book Jacket: The Deepest South of All
    The Deepest South of All
    by Richard Grant
    Author Richard Grant frequently uses his wanderlust to explore diverse stories that create a complex...
  • Book Jacket: Piranesi
    Piranesi
    by Susanna Clarke
    Our First Impressions readers were delighted with this speculative novel by Susanna Clarke, her ...
  • Book Jacket: The Bell in the Lake
    The Bell in the Lake
    by Lars Mytting
    A legend from Lars Mytting's Norwegian hometown tells of two centuries-old church bells that, like ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Blind Light
    by Stuart Evers

    A multigenerational story about two families bound together by the tides of history.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Where the Light Enters
by Sara Donati

An enthralling epic about two trailblazing female doctors in 19th century New York.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Agent Sonya

Agent Sonya: Moscow's Most Daring Wartime Spy

Master storyteller Ben Macintyre tells the true story behind the Cold War's most intrepid female spy.

Enter


Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I I M B T Give T T R

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.