Monday, December 5, 2011

December 4th, 2011 - In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family In Hitler's Berlin

Wow...that's a long title.  Good thing the cover is so amazing ;) *

Anyway, In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson lived up to the expectations Devil in the White City  set. I wouldn't say it outshone Devil in the White City but you can't really beat a serial killer and his murder house juxtaposed with the Chicago's world's fair where inventing the Ferris Wheel was the biggest risk since sliced bread.

I may have made that sound more sarcastic than I meant to, the Ferris Wheel really was a big deal.

I guess the only problem I had with this is that you can't really shock me anymore with all the horrors that Hitler, the Nazi's, and the powers of appeasement pulled. Larson definitely reopened my eyes but know... for how long.

The murder house stayed with me though. When mentioning that I moved to Seattle all by myself, Inever forget to mention the Uncle who lives a block away and who checks in with me every single day and would totally notice if I'm missed.

I keep pitching Devil in the White City by accident.

The reason these two books are so good is that Larson's sets himself apart by making non fiction not as boring/droning/forgettable as it usually is. I'm a history major, I shouldn't say these things. But the feelings, thoughts, and pauses for breath and reflection before big actions aren't really thrown into nonfiction. Too much and people start to question a writer's credibility. But every time Larson does it I don't even notice because it is completely in mesh with that person's character.

For those of you who want a little more detail on the book than the title gives you, the American family in question is the Ambassador Dodd, his wife, his son, and his daughter Martha who were in Germany from 1933-1937.

When most of America was sitting in front of the TV and newspapers with their hands over their ears and eyes (it's possible, I learned that when I was a kid), criticizing anyone who took even mild stands against Germany's descent into psychotic despotism, Ambassador Dodd was driving around Berlin in his old, reliable, American car. He quietly worked behind the scenes, trying to teach by example and he would publicly call officials on their bullshit if they happened to say it in front of him.

His daughter, Martha, was getting to know intimately  all sides of the issues at hand by bedding anyone with luminous or striking eyes. It's her right, but not a mentality I get. Although it does make for interesting reading.

It was a shady time y'all. Hopefully, in this case, history never repeats itself.

* Book Club is conveniently called Judge A Book By Its Cover

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