In the Garden of Beasts


Author: Erik Larson; narrated by Stephen Hoye

Title: In the garden of beasts: love, terror, and an American family in Hitler’s Berlin

Genre: Non-fiction; audiobook

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 448 pages; 12 hrs. 53 mins.

Geographical Setting: Berlin, Germany

Time Period: 1933-1934

Plot Summary: In 1933, history professor William E. Dodd was appointed as the ambassador to Germany with instructions not to get involved with German politics but to do anything necessary to see that Germany’s WWI debts were repaid to America. Dodd and his family went to Germany with high hopes of seeing a country rebuilding and reinvigorating itself after the destruction of the previous war. Dodd’s daughter, Martha, was particularly enthralled with the “new Germany” as it was forming around them.

Through Dodd and Martha’s journals the reader sees the family’s initial delight in Germany society and people (including some high-profile Nazis) turn to disbelief and fear.


Subject Headings: Dodd, William Edward, 1869-1940.
Diplomats United States Biography.
Historians United States Biography.
National socialism Germany.
Germany Social conditions 1933-1945.

Appeal: Compelling; bleak; contemplative; dramatic; haunting; poignant; sobering; detailed characters; flawed characters; multiple points of view; character-centered; complex; layered; thought-provoking; details of Nazi Germany; historical details; accessible language; informative; well-researched

3 terms that best describe this book: Compelling; character-centered; well-researched

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Nazi nexus: America’s corporate connections to Hitler’s Holocaust by Edwin Black

From IBM and General Motors to the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Institution, some of America’s best known corporations played a role (some directly, some indirectly) in the Holocaust. In Nazi Nexus, Black shows a very different side of American-German relations during the war.

The Politics of Truth by Joseph Wilson

In The Politics of Truth, Wilson tells his story as a diplomat to whom many in the government didn’t want to listen. While Dodd himself was attacked for his statements, political insiders went after Wilson’s wife. In both stories, we see a man trying to do what is right for his country put through a smear campaign by those who wish to maintain the status quo.

Forsaken: an American tragedy in Stalin’s Russia by Tim Tzouliadis

Set in the same time period as In the Garden of Beasts, Tzouliadis reveals the fate of Americans who immigrated to the Soviet Union in hopes of escaping the Great Depression. Sadly, few who emigrated survived with many being arrested and placed in the gulag.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors


Garden of Beasts : A Novel of Berlin 1936  by Jeffery Deaver

Paul Schumann, a hit-man is sent to Germany to assassinate military leader, Col. Reinhard Ernst. This fictional tale also centers around Berlin’s Garden of Beasts, and portrays the conflicting allegiances of everyday German people.

The War That Came Early – Hitler’s War by Harry Turtledove

In The War that Came Early, Turtledove explores an alternative history of WWII. What may have happened if British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, had not signed the Munich Accord, ceding part of Czechoslovakia to Germany? Told from multiple points of view, readers could explore what might have happened had world leaders listened to Dodd earlier.

Eva’s Story by Linda D. Cirino

Eva’s Story tells the tale of a young woman in rural Germany who falls in love with a Jewish man she finds hiding in her chicken coop. Readers who enjoyed the tales of Martha’s many ill-fated love affairs will enjoy this look at love in Nazi Germany from a much different perspective.

Name: Portia



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