29 Jul

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

I thoroughly enjoyed Larson’s latest, In the Garden of Beasts.  It had three points working in its favor even before I started reading it.  I loved Devil in the White City, I have a passion for WWII and I enjoy nonfiction.  This latest Larson saga is the story of William Dodd and his family who served as American Ambassador to Germany in the 1930s during Hitler’s rise to power.  Dodd was a professor of history when called upon to serve his country.  He wasn’t the first choice for the position and he knew it.  When he accepted Roosevelt’s offer he was determined to live within his means and conduct business on a budget.  That decision upset some of the establishment who often took advantage of their position and lived a lavish lifestyle.  Dodd, his wife Mattie, son Bill and daughter Martha left for Germany on July 5, 1933.  Dodd was a man of character, his wife was very down to earth, his son entered the University and his daughter, in the midst of a divorce, was a woman of the world.  Larson provides a unique look at an American family coming to terms with what the rest of the world had to come to terms with, the rise of Hitler.  All Hitler’s henchmen are present and there is a unique look at the beginning of the Third Reich.  To call it a dysfunctional family would be an understatement.  Mixed in are the dalliances of  Martha who seems to date most of Germany, was set up with Hitler (that didn’t work out) and a brief stint as a Soviet spy.  It is an enjoyable and disturbing read.  A must for WWII aficionados, lovers of history and just a good read!