Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt

This book didn't really impress me as a travelogue or true crime. In fact, the pairing of the two felt forced. Amidst trying to incorporate so many different facets of the town, Berendt seeks to show so many varying characters, that sometimes they come across as a bit unreal.

The portrait of Savannah as an eccentric, unmodernized time capsule of Southern heritage is very accurate; I read this book during the whirlwind of family drama and preparations for a weekend in... Savannah, GA. I'm that person. 

"The book," as locals now refer to this piece of non fiction, attempts to focus on the trial surrounding Williams' shooting of his employee/lover, and does air on the side of journalistic prose when detailing the court case and investigations. The asides about other Savannah folk never seem to fit well with the drama surrounding the shootings; a voodoo priestess and a poison-toting insect expert? It's almost too random to be real. I love that Berendt wanted to show the glory of so many people that feel like they could only come out of Savannah, but the problem was it didn't come together for me.

I loved the scene at Williams' Christmas party after the shooting, when all of the rich white people are gossiping and ruminating on what they think happened and why; that's the South I know. Voodoo and mass murder by poison though? Not so much. Sometimes whimsy can lead you astray or off track, and it definitely kept this book feeling a little too choppy, and less like a realized whole.

As for our trip to Savannah... it was amazing! Having some of the history and geography of the area detailed truly enhanced the experience! We roamed the Riverwalk, took a carriage tour with horses named Murphy and Guinness (Irish-haven that Savannah is) through Historic Downtown, creeped around Bonaventure Cemetary, and relaxed at Wormsloe State Historic Site, Saturday alone! Sunday had us cruising up the Island Expressway to the picturesque Tybee Island and Lighthouse! I'd love to go back, but I won't be reading anything else by Berendt any time soon!

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