Between the Lines Book Club: The Dodds and Their Books

between the lines book club logoThis month we are reading In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson. We’ll be discussing the book in person at Arden Dimick Library, at 10:30AM on August 26, 2017.

The Dodds had fascinating lives in diplomatic circle, but they were also authors. William Dodd was a historian who wanted more time to write. He wrote Expansion and Conflict about how economic regional competition influenced the outbreak of The Civil War. He also wrote biographies of Jefferson Davis, Nathaniel Macon, and Thomas Jefferson, among other papers and books.

Martha Dodd, William’s daughter, wrote novels and memoirs. She wrote a memoir called  My Years in Germany and another one called Through Embassy Eyes. Her novel Sowing the Wind, published in 1945, is about life in Germany under Nazi rule. The Searching Light, which was published in 1955, deals with American paranioa and persecution of those suspected to be Communists.

After the war, Martha Dodd became a spy for the Soviets. Be sure to check out her wikipedia.org entry for the details!

Between the Lines Book club: Interviews with Erik Larson

between the lines book club logoOur selection this week is In the Garden of Beasts By Erik Larson. This book tells the sotry of the american Dodd family, who lived in Berlin in the 1930’s and witnessed Hitler’s consolidation of power and the pre-war years of the Third Reich.

Larson specializes in non-fiction books that read like novels. For instance, Dead Wake told of the sinking of the Lusitania, while The Devil in the White City is about serial killer H.H. Holmes, who murdered women and children during the 1893 World’s Fair. Over the years Larson has given many interviews describing his process, which includes Oreos and coffee.

In this npr.org interview, Larson talks specifically about In the Garden of Beasts. Speaking of Martha Dodd, he says:

“One of the things that drew me to her as a character is she follows this very interesting personal arc — almost like the kind of thing you would expect from a novel,” Larson says. “That’s not to say it has the satisfying end you might get in a novel — like maybe she would start an underground operation and start shooting up Nazis; that didn’t happen — but she does come to a realization that this is not the benign revolution she had first thought.”

In this interview for readitforward.com, Larson talks about his research process and the importance of primary materials:

In the case of correspondence, even an envelope is important, because you never know what’s going to be on that envelope. Or on a calling card for instance. When I was researching In the Garden of Beasts, one of the first files I came across were letters and papers from Martha Dodd, the young woman who was the ambassador’s daughter. At first I just kind of passed over these cards—she had three files full of calling cards, which were literally calling cards to announce the fact that you had arrived to somebody’s house—and there were hundreds of cards in each of these files. At first, I went past them, but then thought, Wait a minute. I should go through these. So I went through them, piece-by-piece, and I got a lot of interesting stuff from those cards. One of the cards was from Nazi official Hermann Göring. So you’re holding his card, and it’s like, wait a minute. This was held by him, and also held by Martha Dodd. This card is—it’s electric.

He also says that the only book he’s written that really got to him was In the Garden of Beasts (he’s asked if he was terribly disturbed by writing The Devil in the White City)

I didn’t find anything disturbing. I mean, this sounds a little odd, ‘cause the guy was this weird serial killer who killed people, and dissolved them in acid baths in his hotel.

But to me it was just like, seriously? This is great stuff. You know, people ask me, “Well, did you ever have any sleepless nights after working on The Devil in the White City?” And I answer, “No. It was perpetual fascination.”

But I’m a trained journalist and I see things in two ways. I see the emotional power of something, and then I also realize that some things make great material, so it doesn’t cause me any sleepless nights. The only one that started to get into my head was In the Garden of Beasts, because of Hitler, and the Nazis. You read about that enough and it really drags you down.

 

Between the Lines Book Club: Interviews with Tracy Chevelier

between the lines book club logoWelcome to Between the Lines Book Club! Our next in-person meeting will be at Arden Dimick on July 22, 2017 at 10:30AM. Our amazing librarian Kerri will be leading the group as we discuss At the Edge of the Orchard, by Tracy Chevelier.

Chevelier primarily writes historical ficiton, which involves a lot of research. In this interview with NPR, she describes eating apples and planting her own apple tree.

On fivebooks.com, she talks about her favorite trees in fiction and why apple trees and Sequoias are so important to her story.

Finally, here’s a lengthy radio interview about At the Edge of the Orchard from The Book Show. Enjoy!

Between the Lines Book Club: Johnny Appleseed

between the lines book club logoOur book this month is At the Edge of the Orchard, by Tracy Chevalier. One of the main characters in the book is John Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed. Growing up, I was familiar with this historical personage only because of the song we used to sing:

 

Oh the Lord is good to me

And so I thank the Lord

For giving me

The Things I need

The sun and the rain and the appleseed

Oh, the Lord is good to me!

Johnny Appleseed was a real person, who lived from 1774 to 1845. He spent most of his adult live establishing apple nurseries, which he would visit and tend to every one or two years. He went barefoot, was vegetarian, and attempted never to hurt an animal. He was opposed to grafting, a process which allows new apple varieties to be created. Most of the apple trees he planted grew “spitters,” that is, apples used for making cider. His orchards were laid low not by flood or drought or pests, but by Prohibition.

Want to learn more about this peculiar and influential American figure? Try “7 Facts on Johnny Appleseed” on biography.com or “9 Facts That Tell the True Story of Johnny Appleseed” on mentalfloss.com. For a less accurate take on the story, here’s the first part of Disney’s version, complete with the song and friendly chirping birds.

Between the Lines Book Club: A Gentleman in Moscow

between the lines book club logoThis month Between the Lines Book Club is reading A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. The book tells the story of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, an aristocrat who is sentenced to house arrest at the lavish Metropol Hotel in Moscow in 1922. The Count lives in the hotel for decades, somewimtes working as a waiter. Outside regimes come and go, but the Count does his best to igmore all that and focus on certain eternal truths, such as the importance of an asparagus server at the table.

The book was adored by critics, although readers tend to find it a “love it or hate it” book. Here are a few reviews to sample:

NPR

Washington Post

New York Times

We will be meeting in person to discuss the book at Arden Dimick Library, at 10:30AM on June 24, 2017. Please join us, and/or leave comments below!

Between the Lines Book Club: A Gentleman in Moscow

between the lines book club logoWelcome back to Between the Lines Book Club! Our next book is A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. We’ll meet to discuss the book at Arden Dimick Library on June 24, 2017 at 10:30AM. Please join us!

A Gentleman in Moscow is about a Russian nobleman, Count Rostov. In 1922, he is sentenced by the Soviet government to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel. For thirty years, he sees Soviet life from the window and through the stories of the hotel’s visitors. Despite the grim history of the USSR through WWII and beyond, the book never lacks for humor and fun.

I hope you all enjoy the book! Leave comments here!