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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (53,793 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Erik Larson Narrator: Stephen Hoye Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2011 ISBN: 9780307914583
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The year is 1933. William E. Dodd is appointed the US’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history. A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter with him to Berlin. At first, Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, by the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels.

But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, Martha’s father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.

Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming—yet wholly sinister—Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “In this mesmerizing portrait of the Nazi capital, Larson plumbs a far more diabolical urban cauldron than in his bestselling The Devil in the White City…A vivid, atmospheric panorama of the Third Reich and its leaders, including murderous Nazi factional infighting, through the accretion of small crimes and petty thuggery.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Gripping, a nightmare narrative of a terrible time. It raises again the question never fully answered about the Nazi era—what evil humans are capable of, and what means are necessary to cage the beast.”

    Seattle Times

  • “Dazzling…Reads like a suspense novel, replete with colorful characters, both familiar and those previously relegated to the shadows.  Like Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories or Victor Klemperer’s Diaries, In the Garden of Beasts is an on-the-ground documentary of a society going mad in slow motion.”

    Chicago Sun-Times

  • “Like slipping slowly into a nightmare, with logic perverted and morality upended…It all makes for a powerful, unsettling immediacy.”

    Vanity Fair

  • “Mesmerizing…Cinematic, improbable yet true.”

    Philadelphia Inquirer

  • “Larson has done it again, expertly weaving together a fresh new narrative from ominous days of the twentieth century.”

    Associated Press

  • “Reads like an elegant thriller…Utterly compelling…Marvelous stuff. An excellent and entertaining book that deserves to be a bestseller, and probably will be.”

    Washington Post

  • “A master at writing true tales as riveting as fiction.”

    People

  • “Larson’s strengths as a storyteller have never been stronger than they are here, and this story is far more important than either The Devil in the White City or Thunderstruck. How the United States dithered as Hitler rose to power is a cautionary tale that bears repeating, and Larson has told it masterfully.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “Erik Larson tackles this outstanding period of history as fully and compellingly as he portrayed the events in his bestseller, The Devil in the White City. With each page, more horrors are revealed, making it impossible to put down. In the Garden of Beasts reads like the true thriller it is.”

    BookReporter.com

  • “Larson succeeds brilliantly…[He] offers a fascinating window into the year when the world began its slow slide into war.”

    Maclean’s

  • “Even though we know how it will end—the book’s climax, the Night of the Long Knives, being just the beginning, this is a page-turner, full of flesh and blood people and monsters too, whose charms are particularly disturbing.”

    Portland Herald

  • “A superb book…Nothing less than masterful.”

    Globe and Mail (Toronto)

  • “Electrifying reading…Fascinating.”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune

  • “A stunning work of history.”

    Newsweek

  • “Terrific.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “Highly compelling…Larson brings Berlin roaring to life in all its glamour and horror…A welcome new chapter in the vast canon of World War II.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “Tells a fascinating story brilliantly well.”

    Financial Times

  • “By far [Larson’s] best and most enthralling work of novelistic history…Powerful, poignant…A transportingly true story.”

    New York Times

  • By far his best and most enthralling work of novelistic history….Powerful, poignant…a transportingly true story. The New York Times
  • Tells a fascinating story brilliantly well. Financial Times
  • Larson succeeds brilliantly…offers a fascinating window into the year when the world began its slow slide into war. Maclean's Magazine
  • A gripping, deeply-intimate narrative with a climax that reads like the best political thriller, where we are stunned with each turn of the page. Louisville Courier Journal
  • Electrifying reading...fascinating." Minneapolis Star-Tribune
  • Larson’s latest chronicle of history has as much excitement as a thriller novel, and it’s all the more thrilling because it’s all true. Asbury Park Press
  • A superb book...nothing less than masterful. Toronto Globe and Mail  
  • Even though we know how it will end — the book's climax, the Night of the Long Knives, being just the beginning, this is a page-turner, full of flesh and blood people and monsters too, whose charms are particularly disturbing. Portland Herald
  • Highly compelling...Larson brings Berlin roaring to life in all its glamour and horror...a welcome new chapter in the vast canon of World War II. Christian Science Monitor 
  • Terrific. Los Angeles Times
  • A stunning work of history. Newsweek
  • Larson has meticulously researched the Dodds’ intimate witness to Hitler’s ascendancy and created an edifying narrative of this historical byway that has all the pleasures of a political thriller….a fresh picture of these terrrible events. The New York Times Book Review
     
  • Larson has taken a brilliant idea and turned it into a gripping book. Women's Wear Daily
  • Harrowingly suspenseful." Vogue.com
  • [G]ripping, a nightmare narrative of a terrible time.  It raises again the question never fully answered about the Nazi era—what evil humans are capable of, and what means are necessary to cage the beast. The Seattle Times
  • In this mesmerizing portrait of the Nazi capital, Larson plumbs a far more diabolical urban cauldron than in his bestselling The Devil in the White City...a vivid, atmospheric panorama of the Third Reich and its leaders, including murderous Nazi factional infighting, through the accretion of small crimes and petty thuggery. Publishers Weekly(Starred Review)

    Praise for Erik Larson
  • THUNDERSTRUCK
  • A ripping yarn of murder and invention. Los Angeles Times
  • Larson’s gift for rendering an historical era with vibrant tactility and filling it with surprising personalities makes Thunderstruck an irresistible tale. The Washington Post Book World
  • Gripping….An edge-of-the-seat read. People
  • DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY
  • [Larson] relentlessly fuses history and entertainment to give this nonfiction book the dramatic effect of a novel….a dynamic, enveloping book. The New York Times
  • A hugely engrossing chronicle of events public and private. Exceedingly well-documented, exhaustive without being excessive, and utterly fascinating. Chicago Tribune
     
  • An irresistible page-turner that reads like the most compelling, sleep-defying fiction. Time Out New York
  •  ISAAC’S STORM 
    “A gripping account…fascinating to its core, and all the more compelling for being true.
    New York Times Book Review
  • Superb...Larson has made the Great Hurricane live again. The Wall Street Journal
  • Gripping….The Jaws of hurricane yarns. Newsday
  • Erik Larson tackles this outstanding period of history as fully and compellingly as he portrayed the events in his bestseller, THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY. With each page, more horrors are revealed, making it impossible to put down. IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS reads like the true thriller it is. BookReporter.com
  • Larson's strengths as a storyteller have never been stronger than they are here, and this story is far more important than either "The Devil in the White City" or "Thunderstruck." How the United States dithered as Hitler rose to power is a cautionary tale that bears repeating, and Larson has told it masterfully. Cleveland Plain Dealer
  • Reads like an elegant thriller…utterly compelling… marvelous stuff. An excellent and entertaining book that deserves to be a bestseller, and probably will be. The Washington Post
     
  • Larson's scholarship is impressive, but it's his pacing and knack for suspense that elevates the book from the matter-of-fact to the sublime. Pittsburgh Review
  • A master at writing true tales as riveting as fiction. People (3 1/2 stars)
  • Larson has done it again, expertly weaving together a fresh new narrative from ominous days of the 20th century. Associated Press
  • Mesmerizing...cinematic, improbable yet true. Philadelphia Inquirer
  • [L]ike slipping slowly into a nightmare, with logic perverted and morality upended….It all makes for a powerful, unsettling immediacy. Bruce Handy, Vanity Fair
  • Dazzling….Reads like a suspense novel, replete with colorful characters, both familiar and those previously relegated to the shadows.  Like Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories or Victor Klemperer’s Diaries, IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS is an on-the-ground documentary of a society going mad in slow motion. The Chicago Sun-Times
  • A 2011 Barnes & Noble Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A #1 New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2011 Christian Science Monitor Book of the Year for Nonfiction
  • A 2012 Chautauqua Prize Finalist
  • A 2011 New York Times Book Review Notable Book
  • A USA Today Bestseller
  • One of the 2011 Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books for Nonfiction: History
  • Selected for the May 2011 Indie Next List
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
  • A 2012 Audie Award Finalist
  • A 2011 Publishers Weekly Best Book for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Harvey Kurtz | 2/6/2014

    " Erik Larson's "In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family" appears to be an historically accurate description of a short period of time in Germany during which Adolph Hitler consolidated his authority and began his reign of terror and brutality. It helps to understand how a well-educated, not desperately poor citizenry joined in the lunacy of their government without much resistance and perhaps without much awareness of the monsters they were becoming. It is a chilling story and encourages some self-reflection on the society we are, ourselves, becoming. On my part, I find it almost incomprehensible that we have recently waged wars of choice on two undeveloped countries lasting, in the aggregate 25 years. We are paying the price with shortages of resources to educate our children but all so many in government care about is helping their wealthy sponsors accumulate even more vast wealth. We are fortunate that no Hitler has risen to lead us while we wonder around in this wilderness. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lucie Rochon | 2/5/2014

    " Enjoyed the book however prefered Devil in the White City. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rom Lokken | 1/13/2014

    " By turns a charming, horrifying, and illuminating view of the rise of Hitler through the lens of a curious old school Yankee professor and his vivacious free spirit daughter. Exceptional novelistic history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Scott Schneider | 1/1/2014

    " Germany in 1933-34 was a country on the brink. William Dodd became Roosevelt's reluctant ambassador to Germany. For a while he tried to stay optimistic about the changes Germany was undergoing but as repression and brutality increased, he became increasingly critical. Finally on June 30, 1934, the "Night of the Long Knives" when Hitler purged his government, it became clear what his intentions were and Dodd became more outspoken. It is sad how little he was backed by the State Dept. and how their only concern was Germany repaying its WWI debt. This book is a fascinating look at the rise of Hitler and the origins of World War II. With so many books written about the War itself, it is great to see a book on the run up to the war and learn the back story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Adenarn | 12/19/2013

    " I liked the book, very interesting to see what Germany was like pre hitler and the denial from the USA. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Lindsay | 12/18/2013

    " It seems I am one of very few who was absolutely bored by this book. I had very high hopes. Having read Devil in the White City, I fully expected a well-researched, detailed, utterly thrilling narrative about the Dodds' experience in Berlin and the rise of the Nazi regime. True on all but one account, and unfortunately, that is the one that keeps readers going for 364 pages of story. Overall, the book was simply not thrilling. Interesting at times, but not thrilling. True to form, Larson did his homework. The research he underwent for this book is astonishing. One simply needs to read the nearly 100 pages of footnotes and Bibliography to see that. However, I feel that may have been to his detriment. At times, the book felt disjointed, disconnected from the overall purpose. Or what I believed to be the overall purpose. For two reasons. 1) It seems Larson was too moved by his own research that he felt ALL was necessary for inclusion. Too many times to count, I read a portion of the book and when finished I thought, 'Why is this even relevant?!' Several characters made appearances in the book so minor they were never mentioned again. And for what purpose? They didn't add to the story. In my opinion, they distracted. It seemed as if Larson thought all of his research was quite interesting and so readers would certainly find it interesting, as well. Unfortunately, I found it distracting and by the end of 364 pages of narrative, extremely annoying. 2) In addition to the unnecessary, was also the redundant. Martha was (extremely) promiscuous, we get it. Dodd was disliked and distrusted by members of the State Department, we get it. It was almost like a rollercoaster. The very interesting and intriguing, followed by the totally irrelevant, then the redundant, and back again. The book is called In the Garden of Beasts (a very cleaver title, I thought), so everything that was not specifically about the Dodds - with particular interest in the Ambassador - or their interactions with and/or relations to the Nazi party or the United States about the Nazi party, distracts from the purpose of the book. My favorite parts of the book followed the above theme. I found those instances quite interesting and enjoyable to read. I just wish Larson had stuck to that purpose. More about the 'beasts', less about Martha's dating life (unless it is with a 'beast', of course). Overall, I suppose I can say that I am glad I read it. It was a unique aspect of the overall World War II narrative. Unfortunately, I won't ever be excited enough to read it again or recommend it to others. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mickeymu | 12/1/2013

    " Erik Larson is a master at authoring historical fiction like "The Devil in the White City"- a five star book as well. But what he does best is provide such an extensive bibliography of research you wonder, what wasn't fact? All of that is irrelevant, however, when you begin "In the Garden of the Beasts..." because it is a page turner of the first order, and one of those books that you count the pages to the end, not to hurry, but to dawdle. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Donna | 11/27/2013

    " Interesting read a bit like a text book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tiarae | 11/20/2013

    " After repeatedly hearing and reading the same standard version of how WWII erupted I found this to be a very refreshing perspective of it. Its definitely worth the casual read if you enjoy historical based writing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mandi | 11/10/2013

    " Although I can appreciate the amount of research and backup that went into this book, it is definitely not an enjoyable read...for 365 pages of substantial information, nothing actually happens!!! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Donny Seyfer | 7/5/2013

    " His ability to make history interesting, even with characters that are a bit odd, is really great. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Peggy Otto | 7/1/2012

    " Larson writes an impressively researched account of Hitler's rise to power from the perspective of an American family living in Berlin. Enthralling and terrifying. I can't wait to start my next Erik Larson. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ian | 3/30/2012

    " Not the best written book I've ever read, but provides an alternative view of the build up to WWII. Pretty easy book to pick up and put down, was told after I'd finished that it might have been better to read Larson's other book, Devil in the White City, first. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kazimiera pendrey | 3/6/2012

    " i found this book very hard to read however it was worth it in the end an interesting insight into nazi germany "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lachelle | 9/7/2011

    " Dense. Too many players to keep track of. Got gripping by the end, but then it just ended. Made me reconsider my thoughts about international politics. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nicole | 7/1/2011

    " A tiresome narrative, but obviously the subject is inherently interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kurt | 6/14/2011

    " Interesting book of pre-World War 2 events. As always a well written history. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Michele.medlin | 5/24/2011

    " it was well researched, fascinating but i still don't like erik larson as a writer. i dunna what my issue is. i'm sure he'll be ok without me absolutely loving him though "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tim | 5/24/2011

    " Few writers working today can reconstruct a great historical scene (detailed action leading to real consequence) better than Larson. His quality research really pays off here. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Richard | 5/23/2011

    " Tedious and tiresome. Has the potential to cover a dynamic period in prewar German history, but plods with excessive explication. Would have been more accessible as a fictionalized account. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dorota | 5/22/2011

    " I am 1/3rd into this book and I really like it. It is set in history 6 years before WWII and usually we don't learn about this time. It is interesting to see how nobody saw Hitler as a threat. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Allison | 5/20/2011

    " Excellent. Disturbing to know that the US Ambassador to Germany activitily warned about the dangers of Hitler and his influence in Germany in the early 30's, only to be rebuffed as a nagging fool. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrea | 5/20/2011

    " This was my first foray into reading on an iPad. There's a lot of info, but really didn't have too many problems keeping characters straight. Interesting new way to look at the events leading to WWII. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brenda | 5/20/2011

    " Engrossing, nonfiction book about the rise of the Nazi regime, as reconstructed from notes and diaries of the American ambassador to Germany (and his family) in the 1930s. A very good read - highly recommend if you are interested in this period of history.
    "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Emily | 5/20/2011

    " Fascinating account of the US ambassador in Hitler's early years of power. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Geo | 5/20/2011

    " unsung hero, america's first ambassador to Nazi Germany, his first year in service and his experiences as he sees first hand the horrors to come. "

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About the Author
Author Erik Larson

Erik Larson is the author of four national bestsellers: In the Garden of Beasts,Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac’s Storm, which have collectively sold more than five million copies and two of which have been #1 New York Times bestsellers. His books have been published in fourteen countries.

About the Narrator

Stephen Hoye has worked as a professional actor in London and Los Angeles for more than thirty years. Trained at Boston University and the Guildhall in London, he has acted in television series and six feature films and has appeared in London’s West End.