Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Review: 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' by John Berendt

✰✰✰✰ When author John Berendt discovered super saver flights in the early 1980s, it opened a whole new world for him. Escaping the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, Berendt embarked on frequent journeys to the isolated town of Savannah, Georgia. He quickly observed that the two cities are nothing alike. As he adjusted to his new home away from home, Berendt met a wide array of characters ranging from society ladies to city leaders, from a voodoo priestess to a drag queen. The charming southern town certainly had more than its fair share of eccentric residents.

So when international antiques dealer, Jim Williams, was accused of murder, naturally the whole town was abuzz with gossip. Over the course of four trials, everyone had an opinion, but what really happened? Part travelogue and part true-crime story with a twist, this book definitely packs a punch.

The Bottom Line: With layers of intrigue, lots of eccentric characters, and a series of trials, the well-mannered southern city of Savannah becomes the focus of this fascinating read. Recommended for adventurous readers interested in true crime, travel, history, and social issues. This captivating story is one you won’t be able to put down. NOTE: This book has been on banned book lists in the past. Thus, due to the graphic scenes and the use of profanity, it may not be appropriate for students or sensitive readers.

Book Club Notes:  This quarter we had a smaller group in attendance due to vacations, but our discussion was not diminished a bit. Some of us had taken the time to watch the movie as well as read the book. We noted how different the book was from the film. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but sometimes it’s not. One member informed us that The Lady Chablis had played herself in the film. I had not realized this little bit of trivia. Awesome!

On a rating scale from 1 – 5, ratings varied from 3 to 5, with an average of 4.25. General comments included that this was an entertaining, quick read. Members enjoyed the quirky characters. We also enjoyed listening to the travel stories of those who have visited Savannah. Those of us who have not yet been had the pleasure of visiting Savannah would definitely like to go there someday. Overall, this was a great pick for our group, and we highly recommend it for other book clubs.

There are several resources for discussion questions available on online including LitLovers and ReadingGroupGuides. However, there was so much to talk about; we really didn’t rely on the questions.

Details: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story by John Berendt. Paperback published by Vintage Books in 1999. 400 p. ISBN: 978-0-679-75152-6  

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