August 2012

Review: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

The story of a diplomat and his family in Nazi Germany

Erik Larson, the author of “In the Garden of Beasts” stands in a small group of non-fiction writers who realize that non-fiction does not have to be boring. Other writers in this small group include: Rebecca Skloot, Jon Krakauer and Sebastion Junger. “In the Garden of Beasts” is the true story of the American Ambassador to Germany and his family and their observations right before World War II.

Much of the focus of the book is on Ambassador Dodd’s daughter, Martha, who was described as both capricious and wanton. Martha viewed herself as something of a writer, and much of the book seems to have been taken from her observations written in both letters and in her journal.

Unfortunately, the Dodds and Martha in particular, were anti-semitic at the start of their trip in Germany. The family made friends quickly and interacted with many other high-ranking diplomats, but didn’t observe or comment too much initially on the transgressions against the Jews in Germany.