In the Garden of the Beasts — Review

July 29, 2013

I recently finished In the Garden of the Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson.

Larson is also the author of The Devil in the White City, which I read and reviewed not too long ago, as well as a number of other historical and true crime books.

Once again he is in his element — bringing to life the people, the place, the time period, and, in this case, the delicate and often tense atmosphere. And yet…

I struggled with this one. It felt much more like a biography of William Dodd — the American ambassador to Germany during Hitler’s rise to power — and less like a chronicle of the tensions and balancing act associated with their safety in Germany in the early Hitler years. I suppose I just had different expectations.

This was much more about Dodd and the embassy/State Department politics than I expected and less about the interactions with the Nazis. Even so, it is not lacking in drama or suspense. This was the early days of the Third Reich after all. I’d certainly recommend it, but be prepared for more history and biography and less intrigue and action.

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