Friday, June 6, 2014

Erik Larson's "In The Garden Of Beasts"...A Book Review


A few years ago my mother-in-law bought me a book written by Erik Larson. The book was, The Devil in the White City. I will always consider that book amazing because it brought together two incredible stories, stories I knew nothing about, and joined them in a way as to not diminish either story. It also taught me of a part of history I may never have known if I had not read the book, that of America's biggest serial killer. Unbelievable story!

So, when I saw another Larson book available at the library, I picked it up without even knowing what the book was about. There are a few authors I would do this for and Erik Larson is one of them. Last month I read book about D-Day. This book goes into detail about an American family living in Berlin in the 1930s and how Hitler's rise was seen through their eyes.


Of course, in hindsight we look back at those who lived during that time and wonder why good people didn't do more to stop this madman. Unfortunately, the answer is the same reason we have evil and wicked people living in our times and we're too afraid to say anything, afraid we'll offend, afraid we'll be called names, afraid those evil people won't like us. I know it sounds crazy, but it's true. In this book Larson tells us of people apologizing and making excuses for the Nazis, telling Europe and America that things were getting better--after all, the beatings of innocent Americans and Jews were decreasing. And, the Nazis said these were atypical and not official party policy.

Maybe you can tell reading this book infuriated me at times. It affected me so much because the same thing is happening in our world right now! We live in a time where if we identify evil--true evil, deny any wrongdoing and at the same time turn the accusers into society's greatest enemy.

But, enough soapboxing...back to the book. Larson, through notes, news articles and personal journals follows the lives of the American ambassador to Germany in the 1930s. At first the family accepted the new wave of optimism as positive, but quickly it became obvious to the ambassador that things were not as they seemed. He tried to warn the world, but due to the weakness and fear of others, his warnings were mostly ignored (another reason for frustration...). The book does not go into the war years, but focuses on what happened before WWII began. It's another example of how we can learn from history.

If we only would...

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