Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

73%

10 Critic Reviews

Berendt's account of Williams and his trials is the thread that holds his other stories together. At times it achieves a resonance that the other portraits generally lack.
-LA Times

Synopsis

Read John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in Large Print.

* All Random House Large Print editions are published in a 16-point typeface



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.



Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story is a sublime and seductive reading experience.  Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written, this enormously engaging portrait of a most beguiling Southern city is certain to become a modern classic.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

About John Berendt

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The son of two writers, John Berendt grew up in Syracuse, New York. He earned a B.A. in English from Harvard University, where he worked on the staff of The Harvard Lampoon. After graduating in 1961, he moved to New York City to pursue a career in publishing. Berendt has written for David Frost and Dick Cavett, was editor of New York magazine from 1977 to 1979, and wrote a monthly column for Esquire from 1982 to 1994. Berendt first traveled to Savannah in the early 1980s, when he realized that he could fly there for a three-day weekend for the price of "a paillard of veal served on a bed of wilted radicchio" [p. 24] in one of New York's trendier restaurants. Over the ensuing eight years his visits became more frequent and extended, until he was spending more time in Savannah than in New York. Part of the appeal, Berendt says, lay in the city's penchant for morbid gossip: "People in Savannah don't say, 'Before leaving the room, Mrs. Jones put on her coat.' Instead, they say, 'Before leaving the room, Mrs. Jones put on the coat that her third husband gave her before he shot himself in the head." (Entertainment Weekly, 3/11/94, p. 52) Since the publication and unprecedented success of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Berendt has become a Savannah celebrity and was even presented with the key to the city. "I took it down to City Hall one night to see if it would work, but it didn't." (Syracuse Post Standard, 4/5/1994)
 
Published May 12, 2010 by Vintage. 402 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Education & Reference, Children's Books, Travel. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
All: 10 | Positive: 9 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Good
on May 20 2010

The imprisonment and trial of Williams, and his surprising fate, form the narrative thread that stitches together this crazy quilt of oddballs, poseurs, snobs, sorceresses, and outlaws. Stylish, brilliant, hilarious, and coolhearted.

Read Full Review of Midnight in the Garden of Goo... | See more reviews from Kirkus

Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Richard Marcus on Jul 09 2005

Scratch beneath the surface of the fine veneer on an antique and you sometimes find wormwood. Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil proves that wormwood is a damn sight more fascinating than any pretty showpiece you’ll see in Christie’s catalogue.

Read Full Review of Midnight in the Garden of Goo... | See more reviews from Blog Critics

LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by Richard Eder on Dec 30 1993

Berendt's account of Williams and his trials is the thread that holds his other stories together. At times it achieves a resonance that the other portraits generally lack.

Read Full Review of Midnight in the Garden of Goo... | See more reviews from LA Times

The Independent

Above average
Reviewed by Mark Lawson on Sep 18 2011

But the book doesn't need these deeper notes, working perfectly as rollicking popular anthropology, with the ballast of Jim and Danny's tragedy. This is a book which leaves you amused, spooked and introduced to a new piece of America.

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The Independent

Above average
Reviewed by ROBERT WINDER on Aug 18 1994

Everything that happens is in some sense a product of the landscape, with its special confederacy of ghosts. Still, it will tantalise readers en route to the place itself...

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Pajiba

Good
Reviewed by Figgy on Apr 07 2009

I love stories that deal with multiple characters, and Berendt does a fantastic job of juggling their stories and personalities...It's amusing and dark, full of stories of blood and murder, scandal, death, parties and living the high life. I loved it, and just like Berendt himself, I was left fascinated with Savannah.

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Teen Ink

Above average
Reviewed by Jordan K on Jan 06 2016

This book holds inventive dialogue, goose-bump-inducing character sketches, and that coveted ability to pull the reader in and make him lament that the book is not longer. The book does something which merely visiting the city could not do; it makes it alive.

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http://ageeksaga.blogspot.com

Above average
Reviewed by Tara on Mar 08 2012

...the point of view character himself is outright dull and the fact that the picture is painted that he was there when the crime in this "true crime book" took place when in fact he was not is just a bit off-putting to me.

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Selections from My Tower of Shame

Good
Reviewed by Jacqueline Lademann on Mar 04 2012

As you can probably tell, I am a BIG fan of this book. It rightly deserves to be regarded as a classic. Although there are many colourful characters, and juicy scandals, the real star and central character is Savannah herself. Now, I just have to get there.

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Book It.

Above average
on Feb 05 1994

...the inability of this book to classify itself fully as nonfiction or fully as nonfiction irritated me. It didn’t impact my reading experience, but it created a lot of questions when I finished.

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Reader Rating for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
83%

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