In the Garden of Beasts

  • by Erik Larson
  • Narrated by Stephen Hoye
  • 12 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Erik Larson has been widely acclaimed as a master of narrative non-fiction, and in his new book, the best-selling author of Devil in the White City turns his hand to a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power.
The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.
A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first, Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany”, she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate.
As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance - and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.
Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming - yet wholly sinister - Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively listenable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.


What the Critics Say

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


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

I loved it ... and hated it ... simultaneously

I have rarely been more conflicted about a book than I am about this one. In many ways it was gripping and sometimes mesmerizing and then again, it was also annoying and at the same time, utterly appalling.

The indifference and callously entrenched anti-Semitism of US State Department officials and their consequent tolerance for the atrocities of the Nazi government is hard to stomach.This is not an image of our government that could make anyone proud to be an American.

The failure of all the western nations to do anything to stop Hitler while they could -- with relative ease -- have done so is difficult to fathom. The feather-headed self-absorption of Dodd's daughter is like a case of hives: the more you scratch, the more you itch.

Most of the people in the book are awful in one way or another. Dodd, the ambassador, ultimately grows to become, in his way, heroic. He, at least, saw what was happening and tried -- within the scope of his position -- to do what he could. That no one listened to him is part of the heartbreak.

Worse is that those who failed to act more often than not did so NOT because they didn't believe him (although some really didn't), but because the majority of them were hardened anti-Semites and/or because they thought Hitler was going to rid Europe of the menace of Communism. Hitler as the lesser of two evils? How revolting is that? And all of this led to the bloodiest war in human history, a conflict wherein more than 30 million people died.

The banality of evil has never been more obvious or more terrifying. Read it and weep.

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- History

compelling father-daughter story

Very nicely read, this book makes for compelling listening. The book covers a period (1933-37) in which the monster that was Germany grew into something truly awful. William Dodd, the American ambassador in Berlin is nicely drawn. He’s a kind and decent man. We are told he is witty, although the evidence is scanty. If this is true, then the book is quite tragic as it traces a man’s descent from a joyful state into one of stress, ending with major job dissatisfaction and depression. He ends up a sad old drudge, but along the way he runs into some of German history’s strange cast. In fact, the book’s best bits are on the Night of the Long Knives. His daughter, Martha, is a piece of work. She’s a combination of fun-loving, manipulative, sensual and self-righteous that seems to drive all sorts of men to distraction. And she does go through a lot of men. Eventually, she goes off in a direction that would have deeply saddened her ambassador father, I imagine. From Mata Hari to Stalinist in three easy years. The Dodd family members, who are as different as can be, seem to get along very well with one another during a difficult time. It’s a very memorable book.
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- Patrick

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-10-2011
  • Publisher: Random House Audio