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In the Garden of Beasts (Larson) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
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Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for In the Garden of Beasts:

1. William Dodd went to Germany believing that Hitler would have a positive influence on Germany. Why were so many at first enamored of Nazism and willing "to give Hitler everything he wants"?

2. How would you describe German society at the time of the Dodd Family's arrival in Berlin? Talk about the ways in which Germany appeared to be a modern, civilized society...and, of course, the way in which that appearance was at odds with reality.

3. What was it that made Dodd begin to suspect the rumors he had been hearing about Nazi brutality were true?

4. Why did Dodd's—and numerous others'—warnings about Hitler fall on indifferent ears in the US? What was the primary concern of the US in its relationship with Germany? Was the US stance one of purposeful ignorance...or of sheer disbelief?

5. Did America's own anti-semitism play any role in dismissing the growing chorus of concern ?

6. What do you think of William Dodd? What about him do you find admirable? Were you mildly amused or impressed by his sense of frugality?

7. What was Dodd's reputation among the "old hands" at the State Department? What role does class play in how he was viewed by his diplomatic peers?

8. What about Martha? What do you find in her character to admire...or not? Did she purposely allow herself to be blinded by Udet and Rudolf Diels...or was she truly dazzled by their charms? Her promiscuity could have made her a serious liability. Were you surprised that her parents seemed untroubled by her multiple love affairs, or that they didn't try to reign in her behavior?

9. How does Erik Larson portray Hitler in his book? Does he humanize him...or present him as a monster? How does he depict Goebbels and Goering...and other higher-ups in the Nazi party?

10. How does the fact that you know the eventual outcome of Nazi Germany affect the way you experience the book? Does foreknowledge heighten...or lessen the story's suspense. Either way...why?

11. What were events/episodes you find most chilling in Larson's account of the rise of Nazism?

12. What have learned about the period leading up the World War II that you hadn't known? What surprised you? What confirmed things you already knew?

13. Is this a good read? If you've read other books by Larson, how does this compare?

(Questions issued by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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