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!

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.