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GROUP READS > Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil Discussion

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message 1: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 15684 comments Mod
If you choose to read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil for the Group Reads task (or another task for that matter) here's the place to discuss it.

WARNING: This thread may contain spoilers!


Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo (wwwgoodreadscomAnneMolinarolo) | 939 comments When I first read this years ago, I really did like this book. Since then, I've seen the movie. And much to my surprise I liked the movie much better! A colorful character was added to the movie, and the cross dresser made all the difference in the world - he brought much needed life and humor in the story. And having lived in the South for many years, I know a slew full of colorful and wacky characters. I knew some women that would fit beautifully into the Married Women's Card Club. Southern women have the knack to say what they mean (even insults) with a smile or a raised eyebrow.

In Savannah elites' eyes, Jim Williams is not one of them. Wealthy for sure, he is not old money and he is gay. They view each murder trial with distaste, rather than throwing their cloak of silence on and around him - after all he does have "strange predilections" and all of that Nazi paraphernalia. I can just hear them, "Oh, that poor boy..."

But we don't get to the murder and the trials until about midway into the book. And that is my frustration with Midnight. Their is no urgency to get to the main thrust of the plot. While I immensely enjoyed the rich details, the history, and the tour of Savannah and all of her wonderful characters, I wanted to get to what I thought was Berendt's reason for writing Midnight in the first place. I have to confess that I did enjoy the cemetery scene and the gris gris. I always feel the gris gris when I visit one.

I just felt this time reading the book, Midnight could have been shorten to several feature Esquire articles in the way The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett was published.


message 3: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 7540 comments I started this on the commute this am, but its not really keeping my attention...the narration is good but I don't know - its hard to describe...


message 4: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary | 640 comments I really enjoyed this. I found the characters entertaining and I liked the descriptions of Savannah. I knew nothing about it before picking it up for this group read, so I didn't have expectations that it was going to be mainly a true crime story and wasn't disappointed that it didn't focus on that. 4 stars from me!


message 5: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 7540 comments now that i'm actually getting into it, i'm enjoying it a bit more...right now he is handing out with the drag queen - which is making me giggle a bit


message 6: by Bec (new)

Bec (foreverfnm) | 135 comments Dee, Chablis is pretty amazing, certainly adds some life to the story, although it's a bit like the GLBT and "blacks" are often thrown in for the entertainment factor.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this, although it took me a whole day reading to get through it. Like Anne, I found the description of Savannah to be overly long compared with the 'true crime' aspect, but the description of setting was so beautiful that I didn't mind that much - I would have simply prefered some more foreshadowing or for the legal side to be a little more involved.

I think being from Australia... Savannah sounded like no place I have ever been. For a lot of the story I felt like I was peering through binoculars at a completely foreign society, which was interesting.

The ending wasn't that suprising, but very satisfying.

I didn't have high expectations as it wasn't a book I had heard of before, and it did entertain me, so I rated it 3 stars.


message 7: by April (new)

April I read this years ago, either before of after I saw the movie. I love both equally. We are reading it for a face2face book club so I was rereading it and realized I didn't remember the book much. Boy is it Southern in taking its time to get to the "start" of the story. And that really is how the American South works. You have to give three generations of family stories one everyone. Whether they ever really play any real role in the story is not a reason to not include them.
The first half make take some time getting used to if you have never lived in the American South, but it is a great introduction into the worship of the past we have around here.


message 8: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 7540 comments i think I realized that my biggest issue is that this is the Southern Literature category for group read, and someone disclosed to me that Midnight was basically a non-fiction book that had been tweaked to read like a story - so in my mind, it doesn't really fit the category and I think that is why i'm having a hard time with it...

also would prefer just the big trial at the end so far - its been the most interesting bit


message 9: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 7540 comments ok, I FINALLY finished this...I was seriously starting to think it would never end...but i'm glad I did the audiobook, because I probably would have DNF'd the book if I read it. The narrator made up for the rambling storyline...the second half was MUCH better than the first...I would have loved to have had a book just about the trial, without all the extra stuff


message 10: by Kate S (new)

Kate S I had neither read this book nor seen the movie adaptation prior to this reading. I chose this as my group read this season as the book was sitting in my mom's library and I am slowly working my way through her large collection.

I struggled to get into this book. The characters felt mostly flat and I did not like the fact it took over 100 pages to describe the environment in which the action was going to take place. By the time I got to the trial, I cared very little about what happened. Traditionally, I enjoy true crime, but I think everything took too long for me to truly enjoy this one.


message 11: by Fandury (last edited Sep 27, 2013 10:45AM) (new)

Fandury | 975 comments I really liked this book.

I think it is really not a true crime book, as more a book about weird people living in Savannah. Yes, there is a murder and a trial, but this does't seems to be the focus of the book. I think the author tried to show how living in Savannah works, and the murder is simply something that happened in his time there.

I also liked all the little stories, and the different viewpoints of the people he portraits. Its like a snapshot of people, and all the snippets try to show a whole picture.


message 12: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Marcolongo | 1 comments I really enjoyed this book. The characters were all vividly described. This non-fiction book read like a great fiction. I loved Chablis! I'll be renting the movie soon....should be lots of fun:)


message 13: by Alexis (last edited Oct 11, 2013 02:41PM) (new)

Alexis (alvarezalexis85) | 122 comments This book made me want to visit Savannah! First, I have to say, I must not have been paying attention, but I did not know this book was a so-called "non-fiction novel." Discovering that when I finished reading it put the story in a different perspective for me, and I found myself more understanding of the fact that at least three times while I was reading, I though to myself, "This is kind of long..." I thought the book was beautifully descriptive, and I loved meeting the Lady Chablis, Joe Odom, Luther Driggers, Jim Williams, Danny Hansford- the "walking streak of sex (what a great description) - Ugga (spelling?), the ridiculously incompetent Savannah cops, William's collection of Faberge cuff links (they were practically a character) and all of the other attention-grabbing characters vying for attention in this book. I had a good time reading it.


message 14: by Sandy (last edited Oct 27, 2013 07:51AM) (new)

Sandy | 15684 comments Mod
Like Fandury, I see this as a book about Savannah and the people there, not a true crime book - and I do think that was the author's intent. The murder was a vehicle for the story, but not the important thing. If it were a true crime book, it would be a pretty bad one, I think, since there's no question about who did it or why and no focus on the killer's motivation or anything like that.

Maybe because I grew up in Augusta, this sort of story telling is real familiar (and I did enjoy the part where the story moved to Augusta!). It does make me want to really visit Savannah - I've been there 5 or 6 times, but only on the annual Girl Scout field trip to Juliette Low's house - and we sure didn't get to meet up with folks like these on those field trips!


message 15: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 1333 comments I feel like the only one that wanted it to be MORE of a true crime book. I liked meeting the people of Savannah in the beginning, feeling they'll all be tied together, and waiting for it to happen. Nope.

After a while it dragged...When was the crime going to occur. You never met the cops, only heard about them during the trial. And we're back to Chablis and a debutante ball. I didn't like her after that.

It got three stars from me. More like 2.5....

Oh well.


message 16: by Ty (new)

Ty  | 563 comments lol weird people living in Savannah... - I had to laugh at that.

Savannah is my hometown - I was in high school (dating myself there) when this book blew up the publishing charts and Savannah hit the headlines, around the same time that Forrest Gump was also being filmed and released to acclaim. We were in the spotlight for a bit and it was definitely weird.

It's been YEARS since I read the book. It's practically required reading for all Savannahians. While certain depictions of the characters and settings were a bit off, John Berendt did a nice job capturing the spirit and mood of locales in and around the city. The actual crime and subsequent trials happened during my childhood years. But my little teenage group danced at Club One, drove through Bonaventure Cemetary, wandered past the Carriage House, etc etc.

Things have, of course, quieted down by now. There are, actually, normal people who live there, not just the weirdos. XD I still go back several times a year to visit my family. It's slow and quiet and hot down there, and I go to rest, drink sweet, sweet, SWEET tea, and chillax in the humidity and heat. Historic Savannah is a great place to visit - certainly eclectic downtown. For every horse-drawn carriage tour and tourist attraction you come across, there's just the same amount of SCAD-alternative, artsy, renovated post-modernist, art-deco siting that you'll encounter.


message 17: by Alison (new)

Alison | 186 comments I'm going to be joining in with reading this in a few days. It's come up for my turn through the library so I should have it this week :-)


message 18: by Ana (new)

Ana | 331 comments It took me a while to get into the book. Once I really started reading it I liked it. I enjoyed all the wacky people and made me think about the different people were I live.


message 19: by Shawn (new)

Shawn | 263 comments I read this once before, but I enjoyed it more the second time around. I think the best part of the book was the detailed description of the characters. I don't think I really appreciated that part of the book the first time around. I do feel like it focused more on Savannah and the people that lived there than the crime. Overall, an enjoyable and entertaining read.


message 20: by Laurie (new)

Laurie | 923 comments Fun book to read the second time thru. It's been several years, but I enjoyed it as much this time as I did the first time. I'd recommend it for anyone who wants a fun, quirky read about an interesting city.


message 21: by Paul (new)

Paul | 220 comments I "read" this via audio book, which I highly recommend. The narrator was highly skilled in vocally differentiating the characters. In particular, the voodoo queen (Minerva) and the drag queen (the Lady Chabli) were memorable.

My favorite Minerva line: "Give me a numba !".


message 22: by Alison (new)

Alison | 186 comments I finished this yesterday. I found myself very engrossed in the story but I also found it difficult to read because I was jarred by the homophobic theme and language that was sometimes used. Overall it was OK, I wasn't sure what I was getting into at all when I first picked it up. I am unlikely to ever reread it though.


message 23: by Stacy (new)

Stacy (stacyct) | 116 comments Ugh, this was terrible. The book tried to be a lot of different things all at once -- a true crime story, a novel, a number of character studies -- and it fell flat with all of them. The book just rambled on and on without focus or purpose. It's almost like the author couldn't be bothered to flesh-out the true crime portion and instead filled his page quota with whatever fluff he came upon. Not a fan.


message 24: by Carla (new)

Carla Ruffer (hpaddict) | 118 comments I read this for my local book club, and I enjoyed the descriptions of all the "characters." To me they were more of the story than the murder plot. However, I was turned off by the excessive homophobia. I know it took place in a different time, but it was still hard to read.


message 25: by Brian (new)

Brian | 163 comments I've never been to Savannah, but I always pictured it as some picturesque, Southern hospitality ideal. That might be the case, but wow, this book makes it seem as if every person down there is flat out crazy (I know that's not true). All of them make for a fun story though, but I agree with a lot of other people when I found myself wishing for more true crime elements.


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