Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil Audio CD – CD, 2 August 2005
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- ISBN-10 : 0739321501
- ISBN-13 : 978-0739321508
- Dimensions : 12.83 x 1.24 x 14.83 cm
- Publisher : Random House Audio Publishing Group; Abridged edition (2 August 2005)
- Language: : English
- Customer Reviews:
From the Inside Flap
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 theHardcover edition.
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The authors’ ‘fly-on-the-wall’ style often created a remote and objective ‘feel’ to the story. Thus,one did not fully engage with the characters on an emotional level . This, I believe, allowed freedom in not judging but sitting back and enjoying the description and actions of the characters to the full. It was almost like watching a play in which all the action was true and all the more astounding because of it.
A great book. Extremely funny at times.
Leaving the reader to judge was refreshing. Amid it all, a man was killed and one questions whether justice was done.
A good book club book.
I'd heard of the book but it was viewing the film (1997) that caused me to buy and devour the book. How fortunate in being able to see the same story so successfully treated in two genres. But is it the same story? Not quite.
Clint Eastwood's direction is full of colour and yet it is centred on the murder of Billy Hanson by Jim Williams. The victim is well played by Jude Law and the horror of his last smile will haunt me for some time. However, it is Kevin Spacey who hypnotises the audience in his portrayal of the wealthy, and menacingly calm, Williams. The other character to remain with me for some time is that of the Lady Chablis, an over-the-top cameo if ever there was. Essentially the film is a mixture of comedy and thriller, set in a colourful city, which culminates in a dramatic trial. Eastwood has been criticised for the slow approach but he has discarded much of the book, merged characters and transferred conversations and encounters to tighten the subject-matter. He succeeds but simplification removed much of the fascination of that collection of weird personalities which dominate the book. For example, the cinematic Lady Chablis dominates visually: on the page it's the flexibility of her tongue which amazes. Luther Driggers on film is just weird: in the book he's a REAL eccentric - and his wife, hilarious. Joe Odom takes a back-seat in the film (and some of his characteristics are `stolen' by Jim Williams while his girlfriend, Mandy, becomes the love- interest which is but an intrusion into the overall mood). Minerva in the film stays a macabre enigma: in the book she spews out a flood of mumbo-jumbo while obsessed with a catalogue of petty anxieties. What may appear weaknesses in the film are due largely to the need to get the story over in 155 minutes.
With a book the author has no such trouble. So Jim Morrison can play with his guests and yet stay a character relating to all those in the tale. So we have Joe Odom as the `sentimental gentleman' who never quite matures; Mandy Nichols whose loyalty is shattered along with her illusions; Luther Driggers, `the inventor', is easier to understand - even if he does tape flies to his head; Emma Kelly is `the lady with six thousand songs'; Danny Hansford (why was his name changed to Billy Hanson?) is a `walking streak of sex', The Lady Chablis delights as `the Grand Empress of Savannah'; the slimy Lee Sadler, believing `It aint braggin' if y'really done it', who orchestrates the onslaught on Jim Williams, never appears on screen. My quotations are chapter titles in the book so you can appreciate the depth of characterisation.
The city of Savannah is the star, with the descriptions of its rich past and transformed future. The reader can appreciate the vibrant rivalries under the surface of this transformation: the film-goer can just suck in the splendours of that miracle.
There's a quirkiness in the dialogue and the thinking patterns of the characters which gripped an Englishman like myself. It's not just how life moves along differently, it's how the actors interpret that life as it proceeds. For example, Jim Williams never expects to be charged with murder when considering the lax attitude towards killing in Savannah - among certain sections of the community. Women like Vera Dutton Strong, Emma Adler, Serena Dawes and Claire Moultrie are delights on the page but omitted from the film because of their irrelevance to the main plot.
My conclusion is quite simple. To really enjoy 'Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil' both read the book and see the film - and then do it over again so you can appreciate how each plays off the other. You'll get more than double the fun.
Part True-Crime thriller, part travelogue, part quirky character study and part eulogy on man's love of a city, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a truly unique book, and that is something that you can't say too often anymore.
The book revolves around the true life case of Jim Williams and his trial for his lover/employee Danny. Williams insisted it was self-defence, but the city were determined to charge him with murder. But the murder is just a centre piece for a study of the eccentric city of Savannah, clinging to the past and it's own inimitable style in the Old South. It is a city concerned with enjoyment and hedonism, but never in a self-destructive way, inward looking, but not prohibitively and it is populated by a cast of characters that are so bizarre as to be real.
Men walking imaginary dogs, erudite conmen, voodoo priestesses and rowdy transexuals fill the pages of this novel and make it eminently readable. Indeed so intriguing are the people within the book that it is very easy to get swept along with the sheer enjoyment of the place and to forget that the book revolves around a very real killing.
Berendt has managed to create something which spans many genres, but holds a place that is firmly it's own and that, like Savannah is something to be celebrated in this age of idendikit, fads and fashions.
The social traditions of the Deep South take quite a beating as the story progresses.
As I read this book in the kindle edition without introduction, I am unable to comment on the authenticity of the story or whether these outrageous characters are drawn from life or cleverly tweeked into existence by the author John Berendt.
There are moments when the flow of the narrative tends to falter as we turn from a hilarious tea party back to the court case then retreat to a character we haven't seen for a few chapters but all in all, I found this a very entertaining and different read.