In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson was an engaging read for the ladies in our discussion group. Only one participant reported disliking it, and some thought it was the best book we have read in a long time. Since we usually read fiction it was a departure, but we felt that at times it read just like a novel—a technique that Larson has made famous.
- We loved Larson’s writing style, and his choice to focus on the Dodd family to tell the story of the time. The political books about how and why Hitler rose to power have already been written, so he came up with a new perspective.
- William Dodd, ambassador to Germany, disappointed us. His self-absorption and focus on his own research and writing keep him from realizing what is going on in Germany sooner. We give him credit for having evolved and changed his opinions by the time he steps down from his post, though ultimately it is too little too late.
- Martha, his daughter, is the real star of the show and acts as the thread that ties the whole book together. She begins as a spoiled, selfish woman and unfortunately we don’t view her as much changed by the end of the book.
- We wondered, if the characters had been able to access today’s technologies like the Internet and Twitter, would things have been different?
The length of this book did not put us off and the story became more dark and enthralling with every page. Incredibly, it is all true! We had a fantastic discussion with more participants wanting to speak than we had time for, so this book is highly recommended for book clubs.
Join us in November for another fascinating historical read, Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks.