.I just finished In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. I have read most of Larson’s body of work and this is different from The Devil in the White City, his most widely read work. This is more like Isaac’s Storm – a deeply personal work about the actions of one man in the face of events that will, eventually, have historical significance.
In the Garden of Beasts tells the story of an ordinary man who accepts an ambassadorship to Germany in 1933. This ordinary man is learned, respected in his field, but tired. He longs to finish what he considers his
“great work”. He and his family trundle off to Berlin, determined to live within their means and carve out time, between diplomatic engagements, to settle their many and varied ordinary affairs – a book to finish, a divorce to finalize, a sentimental journey to recreate.
He is Ambassador Dodd – a footnote in history, for certain. But that footnote stands for everything we would all like to be, but lack the courage and conviction to truly achieve the goal. His wife. His son. His daughter, Martha. She is definitely worth a google. An interesting footnote, is Martha.
The book is a long read, sometimes tedious in its details. But it is an amalgam of National Socialists, early KGB, and a thousand names we know by heart. The central event is the Night of the Long Knives, but the central principle is higher.
The Pretty Good Club had only to listen to, perhaps, prevent a historical tragedy. Larson brings this idea clearly to life. And the principle players may not have met the fates they met. Sometimes, death by national socialism sometimes was an interminably slow process, with totally unexpected victims
Hearts: 6/10 It was a long, long read.