One of the perks of being a college student is reading ridiculous amounts in the summer. For those of you who enjoyed Erik Larson’s ‘Devil in the White City’, his most recent book ‘In the Garden of Beasts’ is a great new read. Both are similar in Larson’s objective writing style, in his extensive research, and in his rather disturbing subject matters: Chicago serial killers and Hitler’s Germany.
In ‘In The Garden of Beasts’, Larson follows William Dodd and his family as they move to Berlin in the tumultuous year of 1933. Hitler is gaining more and more power, yet few people realize to what an extent Hitler will change Germany. William Dodd has been assigned as the American ambassador in Berlin by President Roosevelt and finds it difficult to deal with German diplomats who make promises they don’t intend to keep. Dodd’s daughter, Martha, befriends, flirts with, and has affairs with communists, Nazis, and others involved in Hitler’s Regime. She is so taken with the beauty of Berlin that she fails to acknowledge how serious the situation is for Jewish-Germans and others against Hitler.
Larson, thorough an impressive body of research, has uncovered letters and correspondences of Dodd, Martha, and others involved in the story. The result is a fiction that reads as very historically accurate. Larson has embellished the real story and made something simply factual into something incredibly compelling. Obviously, since hindsight is 20-20, we as readers may see the characters as naive at times. Considering the time period, American-German relations at the time, and extensive German propaganda, however, it’s much more understandable how an American family in Berlin could fail to realize what a monster Hitler really was. Also, this novel allows us to see one of the darkest time periods of history as what it was: a well-hidden secret. This is not the most pleasant, light-hearted beach-read of the summer, obviously, yet it is great as a gritty, realistic, and compelling novel about an American who is thrown into an impossible situation and who struggles to make changes in his new country.
Missed seeing this guy and this song in concert. Very upset. Perhaps another day…
An example of kids being awesome in the hoopla surrounding the cheerios commercial. ❤