Reading at Midnight

Months ago I strolled through the online library in search of new things to read. That’s where I came across Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. I remembered seeing the movie years and years ago, and had no idea it was based on a book. Add to that not remembering about the movie other than liking it, I decided to give it a go. And there it sat on my To Read pile for months.

To say I wish I had gotten to it sooner is an understatement. I wish I had read it when it was first published. The story is fantastic and vivid, and thanks to my blissful ignorance, I got an extra surprise at the end of the book.

Savannah itself is a central character to the book. The way the town turns its nose up to the goings-on of the rest of the world, and the laid back nature of all the people are clearly reflected in the writing. This quote in chapter two sums it up best for me:

‘We have a saying: If you go to Atlanta, the first question people ask you is, “What’s your business?” In Macon the ask, “Where do you go to church?” In Augusta they ask your mother’s maiden name. But in Savannah the first question people ask you is “What would you like to drink?”‘

And that’s the exact mentality Berendt takes in his writing. Even though the book is centered around a murder, that event doesn’t happen until much later in the book. Instead Berendt takes time to introduce a variety of colorful characters that fells more like a collection of short, connected stories. Typically, stories like that annoy to no end. “Get to the point,” I usually find myself yelling at the pages.

Not this time.

I am more than willing to let the prose take me on whatever round about trail and trust the author to get to the point when it’s the right time. And Berendt did not disappoint. After finishing the book, I felt like I had just returned from a vacation filled with new wonders and friends. Then I got my extra surprise.

Anybody Googling this title will already know this. I claim great ignorance in not knowing. I didn’t even bother to read the back cover being too afraid that a little jogging of my memory might ruin the book for me. So here it is:

The book is non-fiction!

Here I was thinking Berendt had a gifted imagination to come up with these characters only to find that they were all real. The events? All happened. There is an author’s note explaining the one thing he took creative license on. In the story he arrives before the murder and even has a scene with the victim. In truth, he didn’t arrive in Savannah until two years after the murder occurred. That little thing cost him a Pulitzer Prize and caused a lot of non-fiction writers to get their knickers in a twist. If you’re interested in that story, feel free to Google it. I won’t divulge here. For me, it changed a four-star rating to a five-star rating.

If you haven’t read Midnight, don’t wait any longer. If you have read it, give me your thoughts on it. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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