Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Review: "In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin" by Erik Larson

From Goodreads:  Isaac's Storm, The Devil in the White City, and Thunderstruck have all proven Erik Larson's ability to adroitly craft multilayered nonfiction. In his new In The Garden of Beasts, he demonstrates that gift again as he unfolds the often startling story of William E. Dodd, the first American ambassador to Nazi Germany, and his family. History professor Dodd was an unlikely choice to represent the United States in Hitler's Berlin; indeed, he was FDR's fifth choice for the post. His on-the-job education in the barbarities of the "New Germany" sometimes contrasted with that of his romantic, impressionable, party-loving daughter Martha. Larson places these very personal stories within the context of the ever-worsening events.

My Thoughts:  I hate to say this but I was so glad to be done with this book.  It took me well over a week to finish simply because I could not get into it.  The story has an interesting premise; the idea of seeing how an American family dealt with living in Berlin as Hitler was coming to power really sucked me in.  I was not a huge fan of Larson's The Devil in the White City but this book sounded like it would be right up my alley so I decided to give Larson another chance.  Bad idea.  The Devil in the White City moved a lot faster than this book did and I thought that it moved slow.  I hate to say it but In the Garden of Beasts was kind of boring.  The people highlighted in In the Garden of Beasts were not super fascinating people and I really didn't care about them at all.  I thoroughly disliked Dodd's daughter Martha who plays heavily in the story and I didn't think that highly of Dodd.  The whole story made me angry; I just kept thinking that the whole world at that time was so naive and that it was no wonder Hitler managed to do so much damage because nobody cared to try to stop him before it was too late.  I really wanted to like this book but I feel like it completely fell flat.  It makes me really sad when a book has the potential to be great but turns out not to be.  2 stars.

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