A #1 New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt is an all-time classic set in Savannah. Read on for my thoughts on this iconic 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 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 is a sublime and seductive reading experience. Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written, this enormously engaging portrait of a most beguiling Southern city has become a modern classic.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a wonderful book. It first caught my eye when my wife and I were in Savannah on vacation. If you have never been to Savannah, I highly recommend that you go. It is a glorious city that is replete with gorgeous parks, a diverse population, great food, and a rich, fascinating history. Savannah’s historic district is easy to walk, similar to Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. It’s one of my favorite cities, and it is the perfect setting for a book.
I listened to the audiobook version of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil using the Downpour app, and it was a delightful listening experience. The audiobook’s narrator, Jeff Woodman, was perfectly suited for this story. His performance and unique character voices brought the story to life in a way that elevated the already excellent material.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil features wonderful character development, a pleasant dose of humor, and plenty of intrigue. Based on a true story, it is a mysterious tale that captures the imagination, making it hard to put down. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audiobook, and I highly recommend you do the same. And if you can do so while in Savannah, even better.