In the Garden of Beasts,by Erik Larson, is a novelized history of the events taking place in Nazi Germany from June of 1933, until June of 1934. Although the book also discusses other events after June 1934, the climax of the book is the description of events that took place on June 30, 1934 – what has become known as “The Night of Long Knives.” On that night, Hitler and his closest lieutenants executed hundreds of their political opponents, paving the way for his taking total control of Germany after the death of President Hindenburg later that summer.
The story is told through the eyes of the US Ambassador to Germany, William Dodd, and his promiscuous daughter Martha. The stories told are all true, and were taken from the writings of the Dodds as well as others who later wrote memoirs of the time. Additionally, historical archives were used to corroborate the events of the day.
Erik Larson may be best known for his book, The Devil in the White City, which tells the parallel tales of the preparations for, and celebration of the Chicago World Exposition along side the story of the notorious and prolific serial killer, Dr. H. H. Holmes.
In the Garden of Beasts details the relationships of the people of the era who worked and lived with the Ambassador. It talks of the rising tide of despotic destruction in Germany, and of the frustrations of addressing the Third Reich by the Ambassador who was largely unsupported back home.
I found the book to be entertaining, thrilling and engaging. I learned much about the time in Berlin from just before the second World War. Larson managed to paint a picture of a country that was filled with much beauty and charm, that was soon to be decimated by the war.
If you liked The Devil in the White City, you will most certainly like In the Garden of Beasts. This book will also appeal to those interested in learning more about the History of Europe just before World War II