In The Garden Of Beasts by Erik Larson
Oh, dear worst-reader, looks like I have to post a pseudo-worst-critique today albeit with a buy recommend. Finished this book the other night. Needed a few days to process it. Here’s what I’ve worst come up with. This book bored the bejesus out of me. Half through it I struggled to give up on it. It’s not that it’s badly written. It is very well written. But as I read through it I couldn’t help but see Erik Larson’s cluttered work space and all the research that he had done to write it–including what a struggle all of that might have been. Was he awash in clippings, dossiers, reference books, tape recorded interviews, notes, etc.? Nomatter. I stuck with the book in the hopes that this guy couldn’t produce something this boring without throwing in a catch or three. I was wrong. Till the bloody end it was a bore. But again. It is very well written. And there lies the essence of this book.
“In The Garden Of Beasts” feels like a chronicle–not so much of William Dodd–but of all the research that Larson could find on Dodd’s ambassadorship to Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1937. As interesting as this is or could be, it’s not. With that in mind. Allow me to make a prediction. According to the book of knowledge, its wiki page, the film rights to “In The Garden Of Beasts” has been acquired and Tom Hanks is gonna play Ambassador Dodd. I predict that the movie will evolve not around Dodd but around his daughter Martha, who, during her stay in Berlin found various lovers and a love for communism. She’s the only interesting thing in the whole book. And if I, dear worst-reader, were to write the same non-fiction about Dodd’s stay in Berlin, I’d have done it through the guise of Martha. Oddly (or not post McCarthyism) she ended up dying in Prague. Yet it is through Martha that one realises how a once great and cultivated people could turn into a batch of snivelling thugs and über-under-achievers that only know hate. How they are gonna make that into an interesting movie is anybody’s guess. But enough complaining.
If you’re not up to par on pre-WW2 history this might be a good read and you might get a few nuggets of info out of it, especially the sensitivity that America obviously had towards what the Nazis were doing to Jews during Hitler’s ascension. And on that note let me add this: The only thing other than Martha Dodd that is interesting about this book is what I could gather from thinking about it. And that’s the idear that the United States and Britain clearly knew what Hitler was doing and planning to do with the Jews of Europe even though, long after WW2 was over, such knowledge was denied.