Review of ‘In the Garden of Beasts: by Erik Larson | Summary & Analysis: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin’

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In the Garden of Beasts: by Erik Larson/Summary & Analysis by Instaread is a review of Larson’s account of the experiences of Ambassador William Dodd and his family in Hitler’s Germany in the 1930s just before the outbreak of World War II.

A fairly good overview of a book about an interesting episode in US diplomatic history, with a good analysis of the author’s style, but it does not live up to the standards that I’ve come to expect in Instaread books. For one thing, in the opening, it mentions that the book is about life in Berlin through the eyes of the American ambassador and his family, without naming them, and then in the next paragraph brings up George Messersmith, who was the US consul general in Berlin. Later in the review this is explained, but it confuses the reader to have to wait for this explanation. Would have been better to make it clear up front.

Later in the book there’s a bit of confusion that is never explained. It mentions the death of Mattie (the name of the ambassador’s daughter) in 1939, and then a couple of paragraphs later, after detailing her marriages, says that she died in 1990. While I’m sure the first death mentioned was actually Dodd’s wife (whose name, by the way, was not Mattie), meaning this is just an inadvertent typo, it is nonetheless very confusing.

Beyond these two problems, it is a good review that I feel captures the full book’s essence effectively. I’m afraid I can only give this one three stars.

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