Amanda's Reviews > Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
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Sep 01, 13

bookshelves: book-club-made-me-do-it, blog
Recommended to Amanda by: Chris Brewer
Read in May, 2009

Murder, gullah, drag queens (these are a few of my favorite things . . .) There's probably not much I can say about this book that hasn't already been said, but that won't stop me. I saw the movie when it first came out and loved it, but just never got around to reading the book. I thought that the entire book would be about the murder trial of Jim Williams, the prominent Savannah antiques dealer accused of murdering Danny Hansford (with whom it was rumored he was having a sexual relationship). While a generous portion of the book is dedicated to the details of Williams's four trials, the book is much more than that. This is a collection of stories about the people and history of Savannah--some of it true, some of it embellished, and some of it flat-out fabricated. The characters are eccentric, but likable (particularly The Lady Chablis--the foul mouthed drag queen who has labeled herself "The Grand Empress of Savannah;" she's by far my favorite character, followed by Minerva, the fascinating practitioner of voodoo). And, while I knew he was probably a scoundrel, I also liked Jim Williams, who insisted on continuing to live in Savannah because "it pisses off all the right people."

There was a lot of discussion at book club as to whether this should be classified as fiction or non-fiction. Here's my verdict: who cares? If the story is entertaining and well told, whether or not it's 100% factual shouldn't make a whit of difference to anyone who is looking to be entertained.

It should also be said that the cover art for the book is perfect. The bird girl of Bonaventure Cemetery stands there like Savannah itself, prim and old-fashioned, holding out both good and evil--head cocked in curiosity to see from which bowl her citizens will take.

Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder
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Reading Progress

05/23/2009 page 27
6.99%
05/26/2009 page 113
29.27% "No matter what, it was worth it just for the chapter on Chablis . . ."
05/26/2009 page 154
39.9% "This may be the book that destroyed book club . . ."
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Diane Amanda, I loved this book too! It made me want to get on a plane to visit Savannah immediately.


Amanda Diane wrote: "Amanda, I loved this book too! It made me want to get on a plane to visit Savannah immediately."

I had the same reaction--a trip to Savannah is on my bucket list. (Let's just hope sooner rather than later!)


Diane Amanda, I did finally get to Savannah in 2011. It's lovely! If you go, be sure to stay in the historic area where you can walk everywhere. And a car ride out to Bonaventure Cemetery was totally worth it.


message 4: by Dan (new)

Dan Schwent Bonaventure was pretty cool from what I remember, although I should have went earlier in the year when it wasn't 95 degrees out.


Lisa M. Can you tell me a little bit more about the parts that are considered fictional? I wonder if it was backlash from Savannah citizens who didn't want people to think certain types of characters lived in the city, as opposed to it actually being fictional.


Amanda Lisa wrote: "Can you tell me a little bit more about the parts that are considered fictional? I wonder if it was backlash from Savannah citizens who didn't want people to think certain types of characters lived..."

Honestly, I don't remember which scenes came up for discussion at book club as being potentially fictional because it's been so long ago. I think the consensus was that this was "non-fiction" in the same way Truman Capote's In Cold Blood is non-fiction. The bones of the story are true, but some liberties may have been taken in fleshing it out a bit.


message 7: by Marianne (new) - added it

Marianne I am currently in savanha on an overnight saw the book and bird girl statue the intrigued me off the start after reading all the books reviews I am deffinitly not leaving with out a copy.


Amanda Do it! After being in Savannah, I think it would be even more interesting.


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