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).
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.
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.
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!!
Claire S. reviewed Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil on
Helpful Score: 2
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Susan B. reviewed Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil on
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.
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!
Susan G. reviewed Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil on
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.