Her taste in retro artwork is almost as good as her taste in friends!
Last week, we were on vacation at the lake and I finally had time to finish reading this book I had started back in February:
Erik Larson wrote another book that some of you may be familiar with, which was mostly non-fiction. Beasts is entirely non-fiction and I loved it. Normally, I am not a huge fan of non-fiction, but Larson's writing style comes off more as storytelling -- think: really interesting dinner party conversationalist chatting you up -- so this book was absolutely entertaining.
Larson researched all the public and private writings, records, etc of Ambassador William Dodd and his daughter, Martha, from their life in 1930s Berlin during the rise of Hitler. He coupled all of that with other records (both personal and public) from other people and institutions, and pieced it all together to form a really clear picture of that period in Berlin.
The first few chapters were a real punch in the gut for me. I could not help comparing the state of Germany's government and economy to that of the U.S. in 2013. Even more startling was the inevitable (at least, for me!) comparison to Hitler's increasing restrictions of the German people's freedoms and our own country's struggles in that area today. Lastly, and most terrifying for me, was the overwhelming similarity to the initial restrictions, discriminations, and persecutions experienced by the Berlin Jews compared to what is currently happening to Catholics in the U.S. The realization that people in 1930s Germany are pretty much the same as people in 2013 U.S. hit home hard: those people ignored all the warning signs, made excuses, and even lauded the rampant violations made by their government, and so do we.
I also appreciated the "insider's look" at life in an American embassy. I had no idea, really, what ambassadors and their staffs do, other than help their fellow countrymen find their lost passports. Especially in this case, where the ambassador was performing his job exactly as it was explained to him, and yet, not following the social mores of that time. He was seeing all of these awful events unfold before his eyes and trying to warn both the German people, as well as President Roosevelt, of all of the evil that was about to be unleashed. Yet, because he didn't fit the mold of what his superiors in the U.S. felt was a proper ambassador, he was ridiculed and ignored. The entire book is fascinating from start to finish.
The biggest surprise to me was how absolutely interesting the bibliography was to read. Yes, I said "bibliography". Larson included all of his own personal notes and stories along with the citations, and it really gave a much clearer picture.
Even if you hated Larson's first book (I didn't), give this one a chance. It's fascinating.