Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larsen

Book:  In the Garden of Beasts

Author:  The unparalleled Erik Larson 

Grade:  A 

Recommended To:  Non-fiction lovers, people who loved Devil in the White City.

Erik Larson has done it again.  He has written another non-fiction masterpiece.  If you've been following this blog for a while,  you will know that this is the third Erik Larson book that I've read this year.  This is because if I like something, I want more of it.  And boy do I like Erik Larson.

This newest work is about Ambassador Dodd and his family and their adventure in Germany during the rise of Hitler's Nazi Party.  This book starts with Dodd getting the ambassadorship to Germany in 1933 and ends when he is removed from the post by Roosevelt some 4 years later. During this time Hitler as appointed the Chancellor of Germany and slowly started implementing regulations and rules that restricted the movements of the nation's Jewish population.  The book also tells of the many attacks on American citizens for their failure to celebrate Nazism and salute during parades and gatherings.   This is a little known part of German and American history and it is fascinating to read about how so destructive a man kept his tenuous grip on Germany in the beginning.

This book is incredibly interesting because Dodd had the opportunity to meet with many of the higher German officials, including Hitler himself.   Dodd was one of the few Americans who had an early hesitation around Hitler and his party and after his ambassadorship was one of the few who spoke out severely against the Hitler regime.

Dodd's daughter, Martha is also heavily featured. She is depicted as having varied and wild sexual tastes and even became romantically involved with several Nazi officials - but she finally falls for a Russian undercover operative. Her story is fascinating.

The story is pieced together through letters, journals and speeches that were made during the time period and Larson's research allows him to present a very thorough picture of life as an American in Nazi Germany before the war. Larson is detailed in ways that other non-fiction writers are not and that makes his books by far some of the best non-fiction that I've ever read.

This book was so good, that I nearly believe that it was better than Devil in the White City and certainly more comprehensive than Isaac's Storm.  Both of which I reviewed this year.  You can be sure that I will keep reading Erik Larson and I hope he continues his strong bid for best-non-fiction-writer that this blogger has ever read.

Happy Reading!!

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