Tuesday, April 3, 2012


One of the many books I read during my chemo purgatory was Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.  A great book for sleepless nights wondering about the random nature of life.

(designer Lyn Morgan's Greek Revival House in Savannah) 

(living room)
I first bought it at university, prompted I am pretty sure by the rave reviews of my friend Aussie New Yorker but I never quite got to it.

If you have not read this book, it covers the author's lengthy stay in Savannah, at the time of the four trials of antique dealer, Jim Williams, who was tried for the murder of local good time boy (and his assistant), Danny Hansford.

I so loved this book, the humid, creeper clad decadence of the Savannahians, and their eccentric cross dressing, backwoods bars, corrupt politicians, secret affairs, all night parties, internecine rivalries, and the two unforgettable female characters - a local voodoo high priestess and drag queen (the Lady Chablis - formerly Frank).  The writer describes the shady world as Gone with the Wind on Mescalin, one of the many lovely turns of phrase sprinkled in the book.  

I particularly liked Mandy Nichols' observation that it is so much better to be on the 'edge of a party'.

This book is a great exploration of the darker side which hums beneath every city, town and village.   As Minerva the voodoo lady puts it -

'Dead time lasts for one hour -- from half an hour before midnight to half an hour after midnight. The half-hour before midnight is for doin' good. The half hour after midnight is for doin' evil.'

This is Jim Williams' house (Mercer House, now a museum I think) which he loved to live in because it annoyed all the 'right people'.

Here are some typical houses from the historic quarter:

(via Young House Love)

(via Pinterest)

For all of Lyn Morgan's stunning house in Savannah, go here.  

It is quite divine and the antithesis of the dark antique filled rooms of Jim Williams.  You can read more about him here


A Farmer's Wife said...

I love Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil. Books that create another world and then immerse you in it are always my favourites. Plus they are the best type of book for allowing you to escape your current situation for just a little while....

You may have read it but John Berendt also wrote a book called The City Of Falling Angels about Venice which is excellent.

Hope all is going well for you.

Felicity said...

What I love about this post Jane is that you've taken your book and brought it alive just a little more with images and your own personal reflections.

You might like to think about popping it onto this months 'Vive Le Livre' linky, it would be a perfect addition.

Happy day!

Kristine said...

I loved this book too. I'm sure it's done a lot for tourism in the area too, after describing it so eloquently.

Young at Heart said...

I too meant to read but have never gotten round to this book.....maybe it's time....also mever heard of The Gentlewoman but am inspired to step away from my second hot cross bun and investigate further....happy easter!!

Aussie New Yorker said...

ok. I have wanted to visit here forever because of that book, but the Anesthetist always tells me I want to go at the wrong time of year! This year for sure....

Aussie New Yorker said...

ok. I have wanted to visit here forever because of that book, but the Anesthetist always tells me I want to go at the wrong time of year! This year for sure....

JMW said...

I loved the book, too. I'm hoping to get to Savannah at some point. My mom spent some time there at educational conferences at the Savannah College of Art & Design. My parents always echoed something similar to what Minerva said, when we wanted to stay out late: "Nothing good happens after midnight." :) Did you see the film? Did you like it? I think the book is much better, although it was fun to see the real Lady Chablis play herself.

Jane said...

JMW - no I haven't but I think I will have to track it down as it has John Cusack in it, always a good reason to watch a film. Of course no film is ever as good as the book is it?xo

annie said...

I don't know why I missed all these posts. They have just come up on my reader. The last one I read was about somebody making a clumsy cancer comment. Tonight is my first nit of chemo purgatory as you so deftly described it , so I'm catching up.mthat book sounds delicious. I'll look for it when I reemerge!

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