Book Reviews of Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil
Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil
Author: John Berendt
ISBN-13: 9780099521013
ISBN-10: 0099521016
Publication Date: 6/1/1995
Pages: 388
Rating:
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 32

3.6 stars, based on 32 ratings
Publisher: Vintage Books
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

123 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

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Helpful Score: 4
Very different - a nonfiction work that reads like a novel, a travel guide, and a first-person account (The author is a character in the book and references his writing of the book within the story)

The book revolves around Savannah, Georgia and a murder trial that went on in the 1980s. The author spends a lot of time on the unique social dynamics of Savannah and the eccentric personalities that made up the city.

Good for it's unique approach and character portrayals. Fascinating if you are from or interested in Savannah. An average story (made more interesting by the fact that its true).

3 stars out of 5
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Helpful Score: 3
Don't let the awful movie ruin this one for you - this is one of the best books I have read, and the movie was one of the worst movies I've seen. I am STILL holding a grudge against Spacey, Eastwood, and everyone else who had anything to do with that heinous movie. Enjoy the book!!
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Helpful Score: 3
This was supposedly a true story of a murder that happened in Savannah in the 80s. A rich, homosexual, antique dealer is accused of killing young Danny Handsford, an employee of his. First of all, I had a real hard time believing this book is actually non-fiction. Secondly, if it was Fiction, it would be terrible. I DID like the information about Savannah and how it related to the rest of the south and the rest of the country for that matter. That was very interesting. I Thought the book tended to be slow in some parts. I thought there were parts of this book that had nothing at all to do with the actual story. Like the Alpha Ball. It was an interesting part of the book but I am sitting here wondering why the author felt the need to put it in. I am glad I read this, but I am also glad I am done.
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Helpful Score: 3
While this stunning work of non-fiction is undoubtedly well-written and interesting, after reading it, you almost feel physically and morally dirty after having consorted with the cast of characters in this book. It's a study in the underbelly of humanity, how Southerners appear polite, virtuous, and cleansed, but can say the nastiest things behind your back, hide the dirtiest secrets, and struggle with the dichotomy between how they want to appear to society and who they really are.
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Helpful Score: 1
This is a strange book with really weird people. Hard to believe it is a true story. I believe it has a lot of "fill." Liked the historical part regarding Savannah. I would not recommend it. Too many good books waiting to be read rather than wasting time on this one.
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Helpful Score: 1
New Orleans has nothing on Savannah as far as eccentrics go, I liked the minor characters better than I did the main character, although it is a good murder story. (I did keep seeing and hearing Kevin Spacey as I read.)
reviewed Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil on
Helpful Score: 1
An enchanting novel that is part mystery and part travel book.
If you missed reading it, now is the opportunity to enjoy a book that was on the NY Times bestseller list for over three years!
reviewed Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil on
Helpful Score: 1
I enjoyed this book. I had put off reading it because of what I had heard about the movie and the cover and title seemed to convey a very dark sinister sort of story. However, the title actually comes from a comical chapter and the cover really is misleading. There is a murder mystery but the book is mainly about Savannah and the colorful characters who live there. Having lived in Savannah for a year I found it very authentic.
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Helpful Score: 1
Quick, rather compulsive, if not entirely satisfying read. There are, as noted by other reviewers, many interesting characters, and the portrait of Savannah is indeed compelling. I found myself wanting to visit. But the "plot" is rather thin, and only about half the book is actually concerned with it. The rest is sort of dressing. I wouldn't characterize the book so much as a mystery but rather as a quirky portrait of a place and its inhabitants, at a specific moment in time, in which the story of a murder is embedded. I ripped through the book in a couple of days, but I'm quite happy to be reposting it, as I certainly wouldn't read it it again.
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Helpful Score: 1
John Berendt, a writer from New York, began taking trips to Savannah, GA on a whim. What began as quick weekend trips became longer and longer stays until he had slowly began spending more time in Savannah than in NYC. As Berendt becomes more a part of Savannah society, he finds himself immersed in an eccentric cast of characters: a voodoo priestess, a black drag queen, an inventor with unusual habits, and a man accused of murder.

You will be hooked on this 'true crime' book that follows a murder mystery in amongst the dignified and shrouded society of Savannah. Berendt's journalistic-style writing lends itself well to the descriptions and the mannerisms of those he meets and mingles with. Slow-going in the beginning, it's easy to get caught up in the small-town feuds, gossip and social circles that make up this true tale.
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Helpful Score: 1
I expected this book to be more than it was. It was written in an interesting perspective that gave you the feeling that you were actually there with the author. At times, the activity in the book was slow. At other times, it was quicker....keeping me turning the pages. This was a book club read for me, suggested by a friend as a "must read". After spending the past few weeks in this book, I consider it a good read rich in culture if you are curious about Georgia and the eastern states.
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too slow for me to get into.
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One of my all time favorites! The narrator does a wonderful job.
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One of my favorite books of all time. I read this book after moving to Savannah and was lucky enough to be able to visit a lot of the sites in the book.
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There are 10 tapes in this box, the box also says it takes about 15 hours to listen to the whole book.
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What a weird book!! The characters are colorful, the plot is bizarre and the out come you did not see coming. "Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil" reads like a combination of science-fiction and horror, but it's a true story. Amazing
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I loved this book. It reads as a novel and is so enjoyable. Who doesn't love Miss Chablis? It's a murder mystery with a lot of camp to it.
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I really enjoyed this book - it's one that I would love to re-read someday when I get through my "to be read" list. :)
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I have read this book a couple of times and each time I find it funny and a delightful read. I know it is non-fiction but it reads like a fiction book. Hard to believe that the characters in the book are real and not made up by the author but, they are all to real. The story is told in a delightful manner and each character comes to life. After having read it this time I googled the characters. To my amazement they were exactly as the book described. The language was a little rough in places but without it I don't think the story would have been as believable. A fast past enjoyable read.
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Probably the best book ever written for the tourism industry of Savannah.
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Awesome story. Knowing that it is based on fact makes it even better. I lived in Savannah for a few years, and it is exactly the way Berendt said it was!
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I really like this story. I have read it several times over the years and bought the movie. It is a true read about murder in Georgia. The book is almost written as a who "dun it" as you won't find out till close to the end, so in this aspect it isn't like alot of the true crime written now. It is sultry crime writing, you can feel the southern heat and hear bits of accent when you read this page turner.
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I tried several times to get into this book. It just seemed to ramble and ramble without getting into the plot. I didn't bother even finishing it, after feeling frustrated through the first third.
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A great book. I highly recommend it.
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Great audio version of the book. Soooo much better than the movie! Read it and see!!
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I read this book several years ago, gave away my copy, and over the years found myself referring to it so many times I had to go buy another copy. Great book!
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I'd heard rave reviews about this book for some years, but was utterly disappointed when I finally got around to actually trying it. At least at the beginning, it's not a cohesive story but rather a series of strange, loosely linked vignettes about unusual and rather unlikeable people. There's a good deal of Savannah history, culture, and local color; interesting, but all of it I could have gotten from a good travel guide, and none of it added much to the narrative. I can't speak to the "true crime" aspect of the story, because I never made it that far. Midnight is just a seamy, slow-moving Southern-flavored soap opera, and a story I didn't care enough about to see through to the end.
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I loved this book. I did not see the movie, but had heard of it, so I requested the book based on that, Good Choice. I didn't even really care about the murder aspect, though it was interesting how many times the case was brought to trial.

This book will make you want to pack your bags and go hang out in Savannah for a few months. I would add this to your must read list.
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Excellent historical crime story, if somewhat disturbing!
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Great southern reading. Non-fiction that reads like a novel. I couldn't put this book down.
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This author is amazing at describing the area (savannah, ga), environment and time. His stories sometimes drag a bit to me though.
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Amazon.com

John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil has been heralded as a "lyrical work of nonfiction," and the book's extremely graceful prose depictions of some of Savannah, Georgia's most colorful eccentrics--remarkable characters who could have once prospered in a William Faulkner novel or Eudora Welty short story--were certainly a critical factor in its tremendous success. (One resident into whose orbit Berendt fell, the Lady Chablis, went on to become a minor celebrity in her own right.) But equally important was Berendt's depiction of Savannah socialite Jim Williams as he stands trial for the murder of Danny Hansford, a moody, violence-prone hustler--and sometime companion to Williams--characterized by locals as a "walking streak of sex." So feel free to call it a "true crime classic" without a trace of shame.
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A very compelling read. The author does a wonderful job of drawing you into the inner workings of the Savannah elite. I couldn't put it down. The movie also did a wonderful job of sticking very closely to the book.
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A great true story with wonderful characters!
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This book is wrapped in the history of a old town,
and a murder cover-up. The book's author, John Berendt,
is a reporter from New York that travels to Savannah, Georgia.
It may seem to be a little quiet town but you'd be surprised
what really goes on there.
John observes and mingles with residents of Savannah.
Chacater's range from a rich antique collector to a crazy man
with a deadly poison. Once all chacaters are introduced, a
murder will unfold. you will never guess the outcome of this story.
I would recommend this book to all readers that like a more
difficult text. Also to all that enjoy learning history about a
old and forgotten town. This is a wonderful piece that
will be remembered for many years to come.
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I liked this book about Savannah and what happened there in 1981 and afterwards. Just learning about the city's history and its inhabitants was worth the read. I look forward to seeing the movie.
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Colorful characters kept me interested. This book has lots of interesting history of Savannah, GA. I think since I visited the city this fall it made it much more interesting and easier to relate to. I also liked the fact that the characters and events were nonfiction.
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Very interesting picture of southern living...
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I'm not sure what the hype about this book was. I found it boring and predictable.
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A great collection of quirky Southern characters. Very enjoyable read!
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This is a dense read at times, but you'll be happy in the end you tackled it.
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Great Audio CD to have during a long trip. Holds your interest well.
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A nice little book but very limited insight into Savannah. I thought it could have been filled/flushed out and made a much better book. The author knows no bounds in patting himself on the back for his tremendous influence. Would Savannah have slipped into oblivion had it not been for Mr. Berendt? "City of Falling Angels" was a much better book.
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A look at eccentric Southern life in Savannah, GA. It has murder, sexual perversion and voodoo mixed together.
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Fabulous!
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This book is truly captivating. I could not put it down (or get anything else done!) How the lives of these characters become entwined is magickal and each separate character comes to life in their own unique way. Learning the ways of Southern Georgia and how different things are even in recent years is fascinating. I will be keeping this book in my collection for many years to come.
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Great read - a true classic! The cover has some nicks and is a little worn, but it is an autographed copy!
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Nice story - very detailed description of scenic Georgia as well as strange characters
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If you have never been to Savannah, Georgia, you need to read this book. Skip the movie; the book tells the tale as only a book can. Makes you want to drop everything and drive to Savannah right now.
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An all time favorite. I had read and reread this book a million times. :)
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What a delightful look at Savannah. Reads like a novel. We visited Savannah in March and took one of the "history" tours described in the book. I wish I had read the book before I went. It is funny and exposes the "skeletons" in the closet that the tours try to ignore. A must read if you are headed South.
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Prior to visiting Savannah, I read this book. It rocks! When you visit Savannah, you can visit the house and all of the landmarks mentioned in the book. When the movie came out (with Kevin Spacey and John Cusack), I thought, "Oooh, I know it's going to be great." Clint Eastwood, who directed, didn't do the book justice. At least it was shot on location. Too bad there weren't that many location shots.
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fall in love with Savannah!
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An account of life in Savannah, interwoven with the unpredictable twists and turns of a landmark murder case and peopled by a gallery of unusual characters, from southern belles to voodoo priestesses.
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Savannah: quiet, sedate, sophisticated yet humble. Wanna bet? Benerdts non-fiction bestseller is at once a travelog; an article in Architectural Digest or Better Homes and Gardens; a précis of Southern history; a courtroom drama; a psychological study of the inhabitants; a murder mystery; a story of greed, corruption, political influence, and misconduct; and voodoo. It is plutocrat versus aristocrat. Yes, Savannah has it all. Well-written, entertaining, witty at times, serious at others; no holds barred, but not judgmental. Youll enjoy this romp through the dirty linen of a quiet, seemingly sedate city-by-the-sea.
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An interesting read, with "unusual characters." I thought his other book, The City of Falling Angels, was better.
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Great book. Great movie too. Amazingly true and richly colorful. You'll be on the next plane/train to Savannah to see the house for yourself.
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This book is based on a true story. It read like a novel, I think that s what I enjoyed must about it.It made me want to visit Savannah, Georgia.
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Fascinating story that gives one a feel of the atmosphere surrounding the residents of Savannah, Georgia. This was made into a very entertaining movie.
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I liked this book, but I'm also glad I'm done. There were definitely parts that just didn't "connect", and by the time the third trial rolled around, I had about had it. History of the city is interesting, characters were quirky, but enough already.
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weird and wonderful real-life murder mystery
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I really loved this book. Maybe because I have visited Savannah and have seen the house, the gardens, the statue, and the cemetary. It is a true story and very well written by the author. A story about a gay antiques dealer, his employee, and all the quirky characters that the author ran into. Of course the murder was highly publicised the book went into detail about the trial. As good a murder mystery as I have read.
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I had no clue until I read the book that this is a true story.
Very entertaining, characters you would not believe.
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I read this book in an increadably busy time of my life, and found myself loving it and being frustrated by it all at the same time. Great characters, but sometimes the story line was meandering.
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this book is funny, and even funnier to think is a depiction of real lives! the book and the movie are evenly matched, if you picture jon cusak while you read the book, it seems fitting.
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"Elegant and wicked...Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil might be the first true-crime book that makes the reader want to book a bed and breakfast for an extended weekend at the scene of the crime."-The New York Times Book Review
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I loved this book! I've read this and the other book by Berendt and I have been impressed both times. If you love the South or a good mystery check this one out.. and bonus.. it's nonfiction!! It's creepy and fun and shocking... never dull.
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I enjoyed this audio book much better then the hard back book. I was able to go into the world of Savannah. I would reccommend they audio book to any on.
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If you liked the movie, you'll love the book.
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This book was really enjoyable. Berendt took an approach that really drew me into where he was. Loved it!
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Much better than the movie. Definitely required reading if you plan to visit Savannah!
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This was a fantastic read. You get a great feel for Savanah and you forget that you are reading non-fiction with every page!
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I enjoyed this book from the first word until the last, it is pure poetry. I always want to visit Savanna after reading it!
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Strange, almost schitzophrenic, but a good read.
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Enjoyed it the second time. A good look at a Southern town and the characters who reside there.
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On May 2, 1981 shots rang out in one of Savannah's grandest mansions, Was it murder or self defense? Said to be one of the best non-fiction novels since IN COLD BLOOD.
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If you've ever been to Savannah or wanted to go, this book gives a great history. I really enjoyed it!
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Great mystery in Savannah, lots of eccentrics, excitement, and thrills. I read it straight in 2 days. You will too.
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Awesome story!
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Gorgeous and gripping. I loved this book. I recommended it to several people who also liked it.
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Great read.
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good story.
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Very well written book with interesting characters.
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Great book, but the title makes it seem as if it's a horror story, but this is far from the truth.
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One of my favorite books. So much so that we vacationed in Savannah, Georgia to see the places written about in the book.
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This was a wonderful book. It happens to be my all time favorite. You just get wrapped up in this book. I have toured the Mercer house. And it's awesome. This is a must read book in my opinion.
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A hauntingly gorgeous murder mystery set in graceful Savannah
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Very quirky account of a southern town and one reporter who moves into town to solve a murder,I loved it so much that I wanted to live there too.
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This is one of my favorite, all-time books. I loved the audio book as well. It's fun, well-written, with well-developed characters and it's true, which makes it all that much more fascinating. Not new, but still an excellent story.
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I really enjoyed this story! I had watched the movie and wanted to read the book. The movie was good, but the book was better. The characters were well developed and drew me in to the story line.
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This is a spellbinding mystery novel set in Savannah. If you saw the movie, the book is so much better.
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I did not really enjoy this book, but it did keep me turning the pages - like a gripping whodunnit. Surprisingly, it is a work of nonfiction, but it reads like a fictional narrative. I did think it was a bit on the "mass market" side. It tackles voodoo, eccentric local inhabitants, and if it's true, it certainly captures a wild flavor of Savannah. Kept me reading 'till dawn, but left me a little bland.
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Loved it; very interesting especially after having been to Savannah and being able to visualize the places talked about in the book. Book is different from the movie. Don't get me wrong I loved the movie too, but the book has more background not only about the murder but just the area and people in general. Don't know how much is fictionalize but it's still fun to read. Of course it helps to be a southern and proud of it.
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Read this many years ago. Terrific story, all the better because it's non-fiction. Berendt captures the essence of lovely old Savannah and gives us a peek under the rug.
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A must read for anyone who has loved their visit to the historic city of Savannah, GA just as i did. Though a non-fiction book, it reads like many a bestselling murder mystery. NY author John Berendt falls in love with the city so becomes a part-time resident in order to learn the inner workings of Savannah society. He discovers some unique characters, moneyed families both new and old, and becomes the confidante of the accused in the May 1981 murder of a young male hustler. Berendt stays in town over 8 years as the murder trial unfolds and the accused runs his antique business from the county jail. It's hard to believe the one of a kind personalities he encounters are all real people!
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Held my attention. Since this is a work of nonfiction, pictures of the houses and whatnot would have been preferred over endless descriptions. There is some obvious filler that I suppose is there to draw out suspense, but it just annoyed me and I skimmed a lot of pages as I moved toward the end.
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Loved this book, well written with characters that you won't always believe but love to read about. Twists and turns and you can't wait to find out the truth and the why's. A good read.
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I enjoyed the characters in this book more than anything. The author also did a good job of "teaching" me about some of the history & culture of the area without making it seem like a history book. Great story.
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This is a great book. Interesting from page 1, written in the first person by the author, who experienced everything he wrote about. At times you would think you are in New Orleans (some voodoo rituals). About half way through the book, the title is explained when you take a trip to a cemetery.
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I'm a little late to the game, having not read this book until recently, but I loved it. I especially enjoyed the fact that it read like a novel, but was based in fact. If you're from the south, have ever been to the south, or just like a good, well-written story, do yourself a favor and check this book out. Well worth your time.
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Could read this again and again. Loved the movie, loved the book.
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I enjoyed. Not exactly a show stopper.
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I liked this book about Savannah and what happened there in 1981 and afterwards. Just learning about the city's history and its inhabitants was worth the read. I look forward to seeing the movie.
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I found Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil to be a very entertaining book. Some parts of it were a little disturbing, but all in all a very good book. It reinforced my desire to visit Savannah soon.
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Good book with great descriptions of the characters.
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This was a fantastic book !!! It reads like a thriller and there are hilarious turns throughout. A must read.
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Savannah is the setting- with a brilliant rendering of characters that come alive in the pages. The writer takes you on a journey to the Old South that is fascinating!
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Beautifully written, with an incredible sense of atmosphere and place.
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I hadn't read this book in a while, and I'm so glad I picked it up. It still captivated me with it's storyline and eccentric characters.
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Read for a book club but was not impressed. To me it was choppy and the homosexual undertones got old quick. Had it's interesting moments but could have been better. Very loosely based on true characters.
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I REALLY ENJOYED THIS BOOK. BUT KEPT THINKING IT WAS ABOUT NEW ORLEANS, AND NOT SAVANNAH. I'VE ONLY BEEN TO SAVANNAH ONCE
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strange book....not sure I liked it.
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Pretty interesting. Writer go to Savannah to write about the people and culture
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Much better than the movie
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Fascinating true murder mystery set in Savannah, GA - a town with a lot of character AND characters!
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a suspense thriller that was made into a movie.
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Very good, excellent reader.
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It took me a long time to finish this book. I found it easy to put it down, not my type of endorsement for a good read. When I finished the book, only then did I realize it was supposed to be non-fiction. This book reminds me a bit, though not as well done, as a Domminick Dunne book.
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This audio book is abridged.
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This was a fun quick audio. True southern charm.
reviewed Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil on + 22 more book reviews
What actually happened on May 2, 1981 in Savannah? Was the murder actually self-defense?
reviewed Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil on + 37 more book reviews
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 drad 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 everone knows everyone else.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story is a sublime and seductive reading experience. Brilliantly concieved and masterfully written, this enormously engaging portrait of a most beguiling Southern city is certain to become a modern classic.
reviewed Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil on + 9 more book reviews
Supposed to be an excellent book