Saturday, September 15, 2012

In the Garden of the Beast - Erik Larson

This is the second book of non-fiction I've read by this author.  Both book clubs that I belong to had chosen it for this month so I heard many different reviews and opinions.  First, a synopsis.

This is a biography of William E. Dodd, the ambassador to Germany in the early 1930's during the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party.  The book is written from letters and journals of Dodd and his daughter, Martha.  Martha was a flirtatious party girl who had many affairs and dalliances with famous and infamous men and who fancied herself a writer (she did publish a book or two later in life).

The details of their daily lives reveal the unawareness of those living in those times to the evil that was Hitler and his group.  The U.S. government was focused on having Germany repay their debts from WWI and there was an attitude of isolationist.  The diplomatic culture of the time was an elite class  that shunned Dodd, a frugal college professor whose qualifications were that he spoke German and had lived there for a time.

I disliked his daughter Martha because I felt she dishonored her role as a diplomat's daughter.  The detail provided painted a vivid picture of Berlin and the members of the Nazi party who were part of the Dodd's acquaintances.

My learning from the story is that I should not judge but I must try and understand how the evil around us can masquerade as decent people.  I would recommend the book for an in-depth history lesson on the period in Germany.

Published: 2011  Read: September 2012  Genre: Non-fiction

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