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New Release: In the Garden of Beasts

By Erik Larson
Crown | 464pgs
Release Date: May 10, 2011

Summary:
Bestselling non-fiction writer Erik Larson tells the electrifying true story of little known American ambassador to Germany William E. Dodd in In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin. Dodd, previously a professor of history at the University of Chicago, assumed his post in Germany in 1933, at the dawn of Hitler’s power. The ambassadorship to Germany was not considered a plum assignment due to the country’s heavy debt to the U.S., but the professor and his family were initially charmed by members of the Nazi party. Dodd’s daughter, Martha, an unabashed party girl, was particularly taken with the extravagant soirées of Berlin’s social scene and engaged in a number of affairs with the Nazi elite. But, soon the immense evil of the Third Reich began to pierce through the veneer of civility, and the Dodd family grew fearful of Hitler’s greed for power. The ambassador’s warnings of danger to the U.S. State Department went largely ignored, as things grew worse in Germany. Tensions finally came to a head as the family witnessed Hitler’s bloody power-play during “the Night of Long Knives”, when the dictator quashed his opposition.

What critics are saying:
Larson’s work is always meticulously researched and In the Garden of Beasts is no different. The author drew on Dodd’s own diary of his time in Berlin, archival documentation, and secondary-source research, to recreate the terrifying moments of Hitler’s nascent reign. Larson’s inclusion of detail into the narrative can be fascinating, as is evident in the best parts of The Devil in the White City, but they can also be tedious, as in the plodding parts of Thunderstruck. Yet overall, his true-life tales prove to be enjoyably engrossing, and early editorial reviews indicate that this new novel will not disappoint. John Barron of the Chicago Sun Times describes the book as a “terrific, harrowing account of one American family’s experience in Germany immediately following Hitler’s assumption of power…Larson’s study reads like a suspense novel, replete with colorful characters, both familiar and those previously relegated to the shadows.”

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