In the Garden of the Beasts

In the Garden of the Beasts
by Eric Larson,2011,
366 pages,  rating 8

   This is a very good book – not quite as good as The Devil in White City but it’s good.  I have read Ian Kershaw’s Hubris (and Volume 2 as well) and so I was familiar with the names but I wonder if the average reader would be.

What is the draw of the book?  Is it the situation in Nazi Germany and understanding that the end would be horrific?  Or is it the life of Martha Dodd, the playgirl of the ambassadorial set?  I understand that much of the research was from her letters and diaries.

I did so love William E. Dodd, how he tried to see the positive but would not turn his back on the negative when he couldn’t believe anymore.   Martha had the same attribute – she made up her mind but was always kept her eyes open.

This book did answer some questions I had –  when and how much did the US know about what was going on in the early days of Hitler in  Germany?   I kind of knew why we closed our eyes and hoped we would never have to go to war again but I didn’t really know what the US was closing its eyes to –  how much were folks told.

Not very many told the tales and then when a few brave folks did,  the powers that be back in Washington didn’t believe it.  They remembered Germany as it had been 20 years prior and so they demolished whatever Dodd said.  Washington was very ingrown.

Finally,  I wonder how much Larson inserted from his own imagination.  Some of the book seems a bit too detailed for diaries – it’s more like a good writer would do to provide a setting or dialogue.

But it’s a riveting tale, overall, and I recommend it.


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