Note: This book should not be confused with the novel by Jeffery Deaver that has a very similar name and was reviewed by the Tuesday evening book club on October 18, 2012.

I recently had this book pressed upon me by a casual acquaintance after we had a dinner together.  He insisted it was a good read, and although the subject matter is something I never really held much interest in I decided to give it a go.  I am glad I did, because this study is history writing at its very best.  In 1933 Franklin Roosevelt was casting about for an ambassador to Nazi Germany and settled on William E. Dodd, a Chicago history professor who was the only candidate apparently willing to take on the job.   He took along his wife, son, and daughter Martha to live in Berlin for the next five years, and this study chronicles their stay.  Martha emerges as the main character of the tale, a promiscuous young woman who seemed determined to bed top German Nazi officials and Russian Communist diplomats indiscriminately.  Meanwhile her beleaguered father tries to walk a delicate line between protesting the Hitler regime’s increasingly hostile treatment of the Jews and placating his anti-Semitic colleagues in the State Department back home.  The book is written almost like a novel, with unnumbered endnotes pertaining to individual pages gathered at the back for reference.  This allows the text to be consumed uninterrupted by citation notifications yet still remain true to the tenants of historical inquiry.  If I had one criticism of this excellent book it would be that there is no character development of Dodd’s wife and son, but it is probably as a result of neither one keeping as many diaries or letters as did the ambassador and his daughter Martha.  That’s a small complaint and should not prevent you from reading this fascinating study of how a country descended into darkness while witnessed by an articulate and honorable man. 

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After reading your review I immediately looked in our catalogue and yes! we have a copy that I now have in my possession and looking forward to reading -  Thanks Kim!

You will like it Jane!

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