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78 Reviews
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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just doesn't get any better
Loved this book. I had no idea what it was about since I hadn't seen the movie and had avoided the hype years ago. Now, reading it for the first time, I'm amazed. I wasn't too excited at first--the first half of the book is just okay; entertaining but nothing that great, but the second half took off and just flew! This book got me reading more southern American literature...
Published on 7 Nov. 2007 by M.J.

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars A book of two halves!
This book was like two different books put together. The first part didnt enthrall me I have to say. It was a bit boring, a bit like lots of different stories about people put together with no real link. But the second half of the book was really good. Thoroughly enjoyed the whole tale about the murder etc. I had a few issues generally in that I found it hard to...
Published on 8 April 2011 by ttofee


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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just doesn't get any better, 7 Nov. 2007
By 
M.J. (Halifax. N.S.) - See all my reviews
Loved this book. I had no idea what it was about since I hadn't seen the movie and had avoided the hype years ago. Now, reading it for the first time, I'm amazed. I wasn't too excited at first--the first half of the book is just okay; entertaining but nothing that great, but the second half took off and just flew! This book got me reading more southern American literature and I came across a fantastic book called "Bark of the Dogwood" by J.T.McCrae which was actually just as good as "Midnight."

"Midnight" is probably the only book on the bestseller list I've read that deserved to be there. Jim Williams is an amazing character, and a real person, or was. We will never know the real truth of what happened (don't want to give away the plot), but even so, it makes for one heck of an entertaining read. Would also recommend the books "Prince of Tides" by Conroy and "Bark of the Dogwood" for two other southern books that don't pull any punches.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quirky, Lurid, Vivid, and Thoughtful, 23 May 2000
By 
H. Callaghan "Alice in Wonderland" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Apparently, this book has been so influential that it has significantly increased the tourist traffic through Savannah. After reading it, it is easy to understand why - even I found myself itching with the urge to visit the place at some point, if for no other reason than to see if half the stories told about it were true.
Part travelogue, part true-crime thriller - with copious supernatural elements also thrown into the mix - the book defies simple description, and the author uses precise, non-sensational, almost diffident language to describe a superabundance of eccentric, larger-than-life characters and bizarre and mannered social rituals.
The story has, as its loose focus, the relationship between local millionaire Jim Williams and his handyman/lover, Danny - a relationship that ends in Williams shooting the younger man dead. Was it murder, or self-defence? Berendt does not pretend to offer any answers, instead settling for telling the few facts that he can actually attest to (and, added to which, of course, is a good dollop of the entertaining hearsay of the Savannah-ites he meets), and leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions.
Trial and retrial follow on, and behind the courtroom scenes one senses a world of political manoeuvring, old enemies, and the genteel but ultra-conservative morality of the Old South. Williams, enigmatic and cunning on one hand (he privately discusses deliberately changing his testimony with the author before a meeting with his lawyer), on the other possessing a deeply gullible streak (he plays Psychic Dice and engages a voodoo priestess to assist at his trial) is a compelling character, who has been known to hang Nazi banners from his window ledge to foil rude film-makers attempting to shoot Civil War movies in his neighbourhood. His lover, Danny, the beautiful hustler with an emotional age of nine, is hardly any less eccentric, growing sulky and violent when women he has only just met refuse his offers of marriage.
But it is also the story of the city itself, and its inhabitants take centre stage. Inhabitants such as the charming but amoral entrepreneurial neighbour who runs a constant gamut of lawsuits for passing bad checks and failing to pay his bills, (and who we first meet when an aggrieved elderly woman throws a brick through his window), and the bawdy, wonderful Lady Chablis, transsexual entertainer, who crashes the black Debutantes' Ball when the author rashly refuses to take her as his date. The verismultitude of characters is striking, and they are wonderfully, sharply drawn.
The title, "Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil", refers to the graveyard where the voodoo priestess conjures the spirits of the dead to beg their assistance in Williams' case (and also to nag her dead lover/voodoo mentor for winning lottery numbers). This balance of the poignant and the hilarious, the tragic and the comic, is what characterises this story and what ultimately makes it such an enjoyable, and yet haunting read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ability to write naturally, 17 Feb. 2010
By 
Sam Carew (Dorset, England) - See all my reviews
Wonderful. The storyline could have been so dull, but it is John Berendt's writing ability that has captured the whole feeling of the people and the area. To be able to write naturally, as one thinks, is such a rare skill. Most people write with restriction - a mental block which inhibits the natural flow of clear thought. I must now get any of his other writings.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entrancing, intriguing, evocative and very good, 24 Feb. 2007
By 
BookAddictUK "BookAddictUK" (London) - See all my reviews
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Wonderful, just wonderful. The best book I have read all year. Berendt weaves an evocative and insightful picture of Savannah into a gentle yet disturbing murder mystery with a twist. Each and every character - and there are lots of the them - is equisitely drawn and immediately engaging. Each espisode is enchanting and well worked into the slowly developing plot. The prose is by turns sparse and luxuriously, perfectly suiting the book itself. Read it or regret it.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A mesmerizing book, 27 Mar. 2007
By 
Sonia (Delft, the Netherlands) - See all my reviews
Meet one the most charming of all southern belles. Not a woman or a girl, but the city of Savannah, located on the Georgia coast, rich with history, ancient architecture, and with its own distinct way of life. In this non-fictional account of life in Savannah, Berendt introduces characters that are at once eccentric, charming, tragic, and entertaining, giving this book an exceptional fictional feel. He aptly describes life in the higher social circles, including prejudices, feuds, jealousies, as well as "how the other half lives", featuring not only the rich and privileged, but also voodoo priestesses, drag queen show girls and male hustlers.

The book centers around the death of Danny Hansford, a troubled and violent young man, at the hands of his employer, Jim Williams, who is a very successful and affluent antiques dealer. The Williams - Hansford affair takes up a large portion of the book.

Berendt's choice of characters makes this story rich, compelling and very entertaining, and the variety of events has kept me reading at a considerable pace, with always a laugh or two around the corner. The Williams trial is highly interesting and adds a bit of suspense to the book.

After reading this book I not only recommend that you read it, but it also has made me put Savannah on my list of places to visit at some point in my life.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet Savannah, 25 Aug. 2004
By 
Dennis Phillips "The Book Friar" (Bulls Gap, Tennessee USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Anybody who did not grow up in the American south will be amused and charmed by the characters portrayed in this book. Anyone who grew up in the south will really understand the characters because they will almost assuredly know someone in their hometown that fits the same description. I was able to put different names on several of the people portrayed in this book and thus picture them with perfect clarity. No matter where one might live in the south, if you haven't been gobbled up by the so-called new south, you will feel like you have known these people for years.
The story is as intriguing as the characters in it and the reader will find themselves drawn more and more into the story. I finished the last one hundred and seventy-five pages in one sitting. I was so caught up in what was going on that I couldn't put the book down and ended up going to be around 2:30 in the morning. Berendt develops the characters so well that one really begins to care about what happens to them and what they do next. This is one amazing book.
When the movie came out I really didn't think I would like it and didn't see it until a few months ago. After seeing the movie I just had to read the book and I am glad I did. There are some differences in the movie and the book and while the movie is good, the book is better. In fact, I have seldom read a book that I liked as much as this one. John Berendt had a lot of good material to start with to be sure, but his wonderful style of writing makes the story entrancing. It is clear that Berendt considers many of these people his friends and that they feel the same way about him. That he cares deeply about both the people and the story comes through very clearly and is part of the reason the reader will also begin to care.
In case you haven't seen the movie I am not going to give away any of the story in this review but whether you have seen the movie or not, do not miss the book. Beg, borrow or buy, I don't care how you get this book but I highly recommend that you read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing book that's hard to put down., 4 Oct. 1999
By A Customer
This book just creeps up on you and leaves you gasping with wonder. It's a travel book and a murder mystery all in one and soooo much better than the film. I lent this to my father and he had read it within two days. He gave it back with the words "I want to go to Savannah and meet these people". You will feel the same way. Buy it, read it, lend it to someone else and spend many happy hours discussing Williams' guilt or innocence. A brilliant read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than just a murder..., 15 Dec. 1998
By A Customer
It's easy to understand why so many readers thought John Berendt's book was pure fiction on its first publication. Populated by bizarre, eccentric characters and featuring extraordinary plots, it reads like a rip-roaring novel. But Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is fact. Centred on a murder case involving a rich antiques dealer, Jim Williams, and a young hustler, the book is much more than just a blow by blow account of the killing and the legal manouvres that followed it. Instead this is the story of the Georgian city of Savannah and its remarkable residents - an outrageous drag queen, an insect-obsessed man with a craving for poison, a slave to voodoo, society dames and charming conmen are just some on show here. Some are likeable, others objectionable - particularly the rich, powerful and manipulative. It all adds up to a compelling account of life in this, on the surface, genteel place. It is a cliche that a book is impossible to put down but in the case of Berendt's remarkable work, it's certainly true.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intense book, 4 Oct. 2007
When I first encountered this book, I'd not read any reviews and the movie had not yet been made. So I was totally unaware of what was going to happen. I enjoyed the first half of the book, but the writing and story really came alive for me in the second half. I'd half-way guessed something like this might be coming, and sure enough, Berendt confirmed it. Add this one to the "keeper" pile because you'll want to read it again and again.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wondrous!, 2 May 2001
By 
A. M. Harvey "Scottish diaspora" (North Oxon, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I am a professional travel writer. Never in my life have I wanted to visit anywhere as much as I want to visit Savannah after reading this book.
I saw the film several years ago, and assumed the murder element was as crucial to the book as it is in the film, where it is the central focus. Wrong, wrong, wrong! The book is full of wonderful, eccentric characters, by far the greatest of which is the city of Savannah.
To all those drones who sat on the train reading Captain Corelli -If you want a really accomplished travelogue with an intriguing story, this is the one to go for!
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