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In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin Hardcover – May 10 2011

39 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; American First edition (May 10 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307408846
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307408846
  • ASIN: 0307408841
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 3.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 635 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #76,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"By far his best and most enthralling work of novelistic history….Powerful, poignant…a transportingly true story."--The New York Times

"Tells a fascinating story brilliantly well."--Financial Times

"Highly compelling...Larson brings Berlin roaring to life in all its glamour and horror...a welcome new chapter in the vast canon of World War II."--Christian Science Monitor 

"Terrific."--Los Angeles Times

“A stunning work of history.”--Newsweek

“Larson has meticulously researched the Dodds’ intimate witness to Hitler’s ascendancy and created an edifying narrative of this historical byway that has all the pleasures of a political thriller….a fresh picture of these terrrible events.”--The New York Times Book Review
"Larson has taken a brilliant idea and turned it into a gripping book."--Women's Wear Daily

"Harrowingly suspenseful."

"A gripping, deeply-intimate narrative with a climax that reads like the best political thriller, where we are stunned with each turn of the page."--Louisville Courier Journal

"Electrifying reading...fascinating." Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Larson’s latest chronicle of history has as much excitement as a thriller novel, and it’s all the more thrilling because it’s all true.”--Asbury Park Press

"A superb book...nothing less than masterful."--Toronto Globe and Mail  

“Even though we know how it will end — the book's climax, the Night of the Long Knives, being just the beginning, this is a page-turner, full of flesh and blood people and monsters too, whose charms are particularly disturbing.”--Portland Herald

"Larson succeeds brilliantly…offers a fascinating window into the year when the world began its slow slide into war."--Maclean's Magazine

"Erik Larson tackles this outstanding period of history as fully and compellingly as he portrayed the events in his bestseller, THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY. With each page, more horrors are revealed, making it impossible to put down. IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS reads like the true thriller it is."

"Larson's strengths as a storyteller have never been stronger than they are here, and this story is far more important than either "The Devil in the White City" or "Thunderstruck." How the United States dithered as Hitler rose to power is a cautionary tale that bears repeating, and Larson has told it masterfully."--Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Reads like an elegant thriller…utterly compelling… marvelous stuff. An excellent and entertaining book that deserves to be a bestseller, and probably will be.”—The Washington Post
“Larson's scholarship is impressive, but it's his pacing and knack for suspense that elevates the book from the matter-of-fact to the sublime.”--Pittsburgh Review

“A master at writing true tales as riveting as fiction.”--People (3 1/2 stars)

"Larson has done it again, expertly weaving together a fresh new narrative from ominous days of the 20th century."--Associated Press

""Mesmerizing...cinematic, improbable yet true."--Philadelphia Inquirer

"[L]ike slipping slowly into a nightmare, with logic perverted and morality upended….It all makes for a powerful, unsettling immediacy."--Bruce Handy, Vanity Fair

“Dazzling….Reads like a suspense novel, replete with colorful characters, both familiar and those previously relegated to the shadows.  Like Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories or Victor Klemperer’s Diaries, IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS is an on-the-ground documentary of a society going mad in slow motion."--The Chicago Sun-Times

“[G]ripping, a nightmare narrative of a terrible time.  It raises again the question never fully answered about the Nazi era—what evil humans are capable of, and what means are necessary to cage the beast.”--The Seattle Times

"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...a vivid, atmospheric panorama of the Third Reich and its leaders, including murderous Nazi factional infighting, through the accretion of small crimes and petty thuggery."--Publishers Weekly(Starred Review)

Praise for Erik Larson
“A ripping yarn of murder and invention.”—Los Angeles Times

“Larson’s gift for rendering an historical era with vibrant tactility and filling it with surprising personalities makes Thunderstruck an irresistible tale.”—The Washington Post Book World

“Gripping….An edge-of-the-seat read.”—People
“[Larson] relentlessly fuses history and entertainment to give this nonfiction book the dramatic effect of a novel….a dynamic, enveloping book.”
The New York Times

“A hugely engrossing chronicle of events public and private. Exceedingly well-documented, exhaustive without being excessive, and utterly fascinating.”
Chicago Tribune
“An irresistible page-turner that reads like the most compelling, sleep-defying fiction.”—Time Out New York

“A gripping account…fascinating to its core, and all the more compelling for being true.”—New York Times Book Review

“Superb...Larson has made the Great Hurricane live again.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Gripping….The Jaws of hurricane yarns.”—Newsday

About the Author

ERIK LARSON is the author of the national bestsellers Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac's Storm.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Nicole Findlay on June 24 2011
Format: Hardcover
I dragged this heavy tome on a recent business trip and found myself utterly engrossed. I could not put it down. This is Larson's best so far. Written in an engaging narrative style, this non-fiction work traces Hitler's rise from Chancellor of Germany to dictator through the eyes of an American history professor and his daughter.

Appointed ambassador to Germany in 1933, Dodd, his wife and two adult children are initially enamoured with the changes and energy they find in Germany (Dodd had studied there in his youth). His daughter Martha, willful, self-absorbed, bright and naive is especially enthralled and counts Nazi officials among her beaus. Over time their enthusiasm for the regime wanes as it implements increasingly draconian measures against its own people.

Ambassador Dodd finds himself a Cassandra-like figure, warning the American administration of Germany's rearmament to no avail.

While readers may be familiar with this period of history, Larson brings a fresh perspective. Reading in the Garden of Beasts is liking watching history unfold before your eyes. It's a cautionary tale of apathy and denial that bears remembering.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Len TOP 100 REVIEWER on Aug. 4 2011
Format: Hardcover
What made the Nazi regime happen? How could the mass extermination of specific groups of people be possible? We can vilify the Hitler and the Nazi Party and the German people who supported them however this doesn't help us understand how it happened. William Dodd, a history professor at the University of Chicago was an unlikely candidate to be the U.S. ambassador to Berlin in 1933. Franklin D. Roosevelt had already asked a number of potential candidates and they'd all turned him down. Dodd knew the city of Berlin well and spoke German fluently and had a friend close to the president who recommended him. Tired of teaching classes and wanting to spend more time on his book, "The Rise and Fall of the Old South," Dodd took the job with the idea that it would give him just that. On July 5, 1933, he and his family boarded a ship for Hamburg.
Unlike other career diplomats, Dodd was not born into privilege nor did he respect it. He thought that during the trying times of the 1930s, diplomats should live modestly and not in the extravagant fashion their wealth afforded. As an historian, he could place the events that were occurring in Berlin at the time in an historical context. In a speech given to the American Chamber of Commerce in Berlin in October of 1933, he compared the behaviour of Hitler and the Nazi party to that of the despotic rulers of Rome under Caesar and France under Louis XIV. As his ambassadorship proceeds, Dodd becomes more and more despondent Germany and the fact that he can't awaken the world to the dangers and atrocities perpetrated by Hitler. His actions become less and less acceptable to the U.S. State Department. They believe he should be neutral to the events and atrocities happening at the time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Grandma S. on March 25 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was recommended to me by a friend who was born, as I was , during WW II, but she was born in Germany and I was born in England. We both felt we learned a great deal that we hadn't previously known about the years leading up to the war: startling revelations about attitudes in the US at that time. I have since bought the book for my husband, my son, one of my sons-in-law and one of my daughters: they have all been fascinated and have passed the book on or recommended it to others. I think a book like this, so thoroughly researched and yet so easy to read, can teach us a great deal about a conflict we should not forget. I grew up in the aftermath of WW II and it was constantly spoken of , but for my children and grandchildren it is just another piece of history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By PT Cruiser HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on June 27 2012
Format: Hardcover
Whenever I read the history of the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party during World War II, I come back to the same questions, "How could the people living in Germany allow this to happen? Didn't they realize how evil Hitler was?" Erik Larson, in his book, "In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin" does a good job of describing the politics and the mood beginning in 1933, when William E. Dodd brought his wife, and two grown children, Martha and Bill, Jr. to Germany with him to begin his ambassadorship in Germany. The book centers mostly around Dodd and his daughter Martha who was 22 at the time and was married, but separated from her husband.

Dodd was a history professor prior to receiving the post and was actually not one of Roosevelt's first choices. Many in the State Department weren't supportive of him and he had to defend himself at every turn. The fact that he wasn't rich and refused to live beyond his salary was a source of annoyance for other statesmen. For example, he brought his old Chevrolet and drove that around Berlin, a sign of just how frugal he was. He also had his own opinions and wasn't always in agreement with other members of the government.

At first Dodd and his family was very enthusiastic about the post and about Germany, especially his daughter, Martha who loved the party scene and dating all sorts of different men. In fact, she was one of the last members of the family to change her opinion about the Nazi party and all that it entailed. Dodd saw what was going on, but believed that once in solid control of the country that Hitler would settle to a more moderate way of governing. Of course, that didn't happen.
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