Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

June 8th, 2011

I just recently completed my Beverly Nichols book collection, ordering the remaining few books of his that I did not own.  I have written about my love affair with Beverly Nichols on many occasions.  He wrote books in the 1920s and 30s about his garden and his cats and his quirky English neighbors.  What more could you possibly want in a story?  Well… it would have been nice if there had been an occasional murder… but other than that – perfection!

So I will be working my way through the rest of Nichol’s books this summer.  If my English accent starts to take over my life – please don’t be offended.  It’s quite good actually – at least that’s what I tell myself.

But I can’t very well do a book post about a bunch of books I have not yet read!  So I thought I would do a book post about a book I HAVE READ!  AND LOVED! AND YET HAVE NEVER MANAGED TO WRITE ABOUT!!!!!!

And that would be Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.

Oh

How

I

Love

This

Book.

It truly is one of my all time favorites.  I’ve read it several times and have also watched the movie starring Jon Cussack, Kevin Spacey and ‘sex walking’ Jude Law.  The movie is very good, but the book… the book… it’s truly one that should be read.  Based on a true story, Berendt captures a world of crazy characters set against a lush Savannah, Georgia backdrop.  There are voodoo priestesses, and men with pet flies and a wealthy art collector with a penchant for hot young men and a cross dresser who only puts eyeshadow on one eye and then there’s Chablis.  Oh Lord help us all – Chablis!  And then a body turns up…  Sorry Beverly Nichols!  But this book may very well have everything I truly need for literary satisfaction.  Gardens, mansions, quirky characters AND A MURDER!  Not that I don’t still completely and totally belong to you and you alone Beverly!

Did you know that the cover of this book is credited as being one of the best book covers of all time?  Okay – that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but the cover of this book is one that burns itself into your mind.  In fact, the bird girl statue of the Savannah cemetery that is on the cover became such a popular tourist destination after the book became a best seller, that the living family members whose loved one’s grave the statue marked, had her moved to a museum (the statue, not the body).  You can read more about the iconic photograph and how it came to be here. I have long loved the statue on the cover of this book, but I thought it was just me and my weird statuary fixation.  Turns out – I’m not the only one!  This is a book design that may have honestly catapulted this book into the public imagination.  Yes, readers may have judged this book by it’s cover, but the story is worthy of the attention.  I’ve never forgotten the characters that inhabit this tale.  If you haven’t read it yet – I highly recommend checking it out.

Comments

  • Agree! One of my favorites. If you get the DVD (through Netflix as I recently did) you can “meet” a number of the real life folks, INCLUDING CHABLIS!!! I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It’s a whole interactive street map with interviews with the people. (I rented it ’cause my hubby went to Savannah for a convention and had no idea what I was mooning on about. He’d never read it or seen the movie. Too bad I couldn’t go on the dang trip. Some day….some day.)

    • Rechelle:

      I am sticking it in my quueueueue (sp?) right now.

      • Véronique Gölz:

        queue ;)

  • I love this book also! My blog is called Bird Girl because of the statue. I would love to have that statue in my yard…..even in my house! I’m so glad that you posted about this wonderful book. Did you know that Chablis played herself in the movie?!

    • Alison:

      Several stores here in Savannah replicas of the statue. You may be able to find one online.

      • Alison:

        That would be SELL replicas…..

        • It sounds worthy of investigation…thanks Alison.

  • susan:

    I read that years ago and still remember Chablis – what a unique individual! ‘She’ has so much courage being black and living in that part of the south. I would love to go to Johnny Mercer’s house if I were to go to Savannah. I seem to recall its a historical house that can be toured but I am certainly not sure about that. Great book. I will have to re-read.
    Rechelle, you should read ‘Nutcracker’ by Shana Alexander. Non fiction written in and I am re-reading for the 3rd time. FASCINATING and dysfunctional family which is why it is so intriguing. The first line of the book grabs you.

  • susan:

    sorry – omitted “1984″ the year it was written.

  • Kait:

    I only ever saw this on 48 Hours Mysteries or Dateline or some such. It was very well done and of course they had all the real people on there. It was several years ago and yet they still repeat it occasionally. They used the shot of the book several time throughout and no matter when I see that statue, I recall the book, even though I never read it. :)

  • I read that book years ago and loved it, but have never seen the movie. It’s on my Netflix Instant list so I just need to get around to watching it . I should probably re-read the book before I watch the movie.

  • Alison:

    I haven’t read the book but we watched the movie b/c we live in Savannah. I wasn’t that impressed. I guess I’m wierd. It was neat to see all the places we knew downtown. I have friends that know some of those family members and the voodoo lady. I really need to read the book. I didn’t find the African-American transgendered person that unusual because, um, we have African-American transgendered people here in the deep south. And white transgendered people. And gays. And African-American gays. And just a whole mish mash of humanity. We don’t lynch everyone we see. Just people from west of Louisiana and north of Virginia.

    • GA in GA:

      lol @ Alison. Living in Savannah is quite civilized compared to my neck of the south. Any one from north of Macon is considered suspect!

      One of my favorite books. Really need to put it on the bedside pile for my summer reading. Definitely worth reading again. Have seen the movie a number of times, but still prefer the book.

  • Kay in KCMO:

    I loved this book – it’s so vivid you can practically feel the humidity dripping from the live oaks. Lady Chablis is to die for.

  • I loved the book, enjoyed the film, and love the cover. I love it so much, that I picked a similar-themed background for my Twitter home page. I’ve had it over a year, and I still love it.

    And Miss Chablis? Oy!

    J.

  • I read the book the year it came out. I guess that was 1984. I was vacationing with my sister in Kiawah Island. We stopped at the bookstore in the airport and had a few minutes before we boarded the plane and the bookstore woman asked what we were looking for. My sister replied, and I will never forget, “a good psycho sexual drama murder mystery”! I burst out laughing. The girl put her hand on a copy of MITGOGAE and said, “my work here is done”.

    We fought over it but she got to read it first. She pulled the older sister thing on me.

    We were in the low county which made it an even more delicious read.

  • I would move to Savannah in a heartbeat (I live in NY) JUST BECAUSE OF THAT BOOK.

    And also because of Mrs. Wilkes restaurant…

  • eclecticdeb:

    This post came JUST in time…I’ve been in a book reading rut and needed some inspiration. Yay!

  • Mary:

    It’s been at least 15 years since I read this book, and scenes from it still play in my mind. Perhaps I will add this to my “summer re-read” list…it’s definitely worth the time!

  • nanne:

    i read the book when it first came out, and , while i thought it was a fun read, i didn’t love it.

    But!! i do love savannah and loved that “midnight..” brought so much attention and tourism to the city. it truely is a wonderful, mysterious, gothically southern place.

    rechelle, if you have never visited savannah, you need to. it’s even better than that book.

  • Harriet:

    Rechelle…………I am intrigued by “Beverley Nicholls” books. Would please tell me which ones you have read. I just looked in my local library and Down the Garden Path is not available. I think I would like to read these books. Did you read them in publishing order? Thank you, Harriet

    • Rechelle:

      I think I read Merry Hall first. I have read ‘Garden Open Today’ and ‘Down the Garden Path’. I don’t think it is necessary to read them in order. It’s been a while since I read them, but I think each book is self contained. You do have to be a garden lover/Anglophile/somewhat nostalgic person to enjoy them. They are exactly action packed, but I love them. ;)

      • Harriet:

        Thank you. I’m going to find those books.

  • Joyce Ann:

    I have a replica of her in my garden, cost me two hundred dollars, which is crazy but oh it brings my such joy to see it there. I agree, great book, great movie. We even went to Savanah to see the Mercer house, can you say fixated?!

    • Rechelle:

      Joyce Ann – I would easily do everything you just mentioned. Would love to own a replica of that statue someday. And a trip to Savannah? Anytime!