Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and EvilMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ll give it three stars. It’s an interesting and entertaining story with quirky characters. But I have no particular interest in the south and its culture. I found the characters mostly just bizarre and I certainly didn’t care much what happened to any of them. I almost didn’t finish this book when my car CD player died halfway through listening. I decided it was a quirky and rambling portrait of Savannah and some of its denizens and I had heard enough to get a feel for the book. But after our book club meeting, and after I got a new audio receiver for my car, I decided to go ahead and finish listening. The second half was almost a different book, focusing on one man and the murder trial that dragged on for more than 8 years, and his involvement with Minerva, the voodoo priestess.

Having just read the book, I watched the movie last night. It didn’t get very good reviews. I thought it was all right. Not a great movie, but not a bad one either. I do think it might have been a bit confusing without having read the book. I especially liked seeing the actual locations – Savannah, the Bonneventure Cemetary, Mercer House, Sweet Georgia Brown’s, etc. And the Lady Chablis was played by herself in the movie. What a fascinating person. From the credits I learned that she wrote an autobiography, so that is going on my reading list!

Description:
Shots rang out in Savannah’s grandest mansion in the misty,early morning hours of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares. John Berendt’s sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction. Berendt skillfully interweaves a hugely entertaining first-person account of life in this isolated remnant of the Old South with the unpredictable twists and turns of a landmark murder case.

It is a spellbinding story peopled by a gallery of remarkable characters: the well-bred society ladies of the Married Woman’s Card Club; the turbulent young redneck gigolo; the hapless recluse who owns a bottle of poison so powerful it could kill every man, woman, and child in Savannah; the aging and profane Southern belle who is the “soul of pampered self-absorption”; the uproariously funny black drag queen; the acerbic and arrogant antiques dealer; the sweet-talking, piano-playing con artist; young blacks dancing the minuet at the black debutante ball; and Minerva, the voodoo priestess who works her magic in the graveyard at midnight. These and other Savannahians act as a Greek chorus, with Berendt revealing the alliances, hostilities, and intrigues that thrive in a town where everyone knows everyone else.

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