Last week I finished:
Okay, so I finished all my main January reads by Jan. 22, so I had a whole week to fit in another longish book. So, I moved up one of my February books: Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts. I finished it this weekend, and I'm kind of glad to be done with it. It is not what I expected at all. Amazon makes it sound like a story about a family in Germany at the start-up to WWII, but it isn't really about a family in Germany, it's about Germany itself. The American ambassador's family is secondary, kind of the American foil to the German changes in the 1930s. I found this book frustratingly dense. I had a very difficult time keeping track of all the key players and really wished there was a "cast of characters" page in the back. Once I realized that the book wasn't a personal account as I expected, but a blow-by-blow account of Hitler's rise to power, I hoped to have one things answered that all the books I've read about WWII don't seem to be clear on: What did America know and believe about Hitler and Germany at this time, and especially, what did they know about the concentration camps? I felt like that's where the book was weakest. The American home front wasn't fully discussed, no doubt a conscious decision on Larson's part, but one that would have given the whole book context for this reader. Also, Larson takes us through 1933 and 1934 month by month, but then skips all the way to 1937, then ends the book. It seems there should have been another hundred pages or so--not that I was wishing for that. It just wasn't what I was expecting or prepared for. It was well done, as all Larson's books are, but it was too clinical and scholarly for my taste. My rating: 3 stars.