Excerpt from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

A Savannah Story

by John Berendt

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 1994, 386 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 1999, 255 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Williams sipped his Madeira. "One of those ladies died just a few months ago. Old Mrs. Morton. She was a marvel. She did exactly as she pleased all her life, God bless her. Her son came home for Christmas vacation one year and brought his college roommate with him. Mama and the college roommate fell in love; the roommate moved into the master bedroom with her; Daddy moved into the guest bedroom, and the son went back to college and never came home again. From then on, Mr. and Mrs. Morton and the roommate lived in that house under those circumstances until the old man died. They kept up appearances and pretended nothing at all outrageous had happened. Mama's young lover served as her chauffeur. Whenever he dropped her off and picked her up at her bridge parties, the other ladies would peer out at them through the venetian blinds. But they never let on that they were interested, because nobody, nobody ever mentioned his name in her presence."

Williams fell silent for a moment, no doubt reflecting upon the recently departed Mrs. Morton. Through the open window, Monterey Square was quiet except for the rasp of a cricket and the passing, now and then, of a car unhurriedly negotiating the turns around the square.

"What do you suppose would happen," I asked, "if the tour guides told that sort of story to their busloads of tourists?"

"Not possible," said Williams. "They keep it very prim and proper."

I told Williams that as I was coming up the walk earlier I had heard the guide on one of the tour buses talking about this house.

"Bless their boring little hearts," said Williams. "What did the guide say?"

"She said that the house was the birthplace of the famous songwriter Johnny Mercer, the man who wrote 'Moon River,' 'I Wanna Be Around,' 'Too Marvelous for Words,' and other standards."

"Wrong, but not completely off base," said Williams. "What else?"

"That last year Jacqueline Onassis offered to buy the house and everything in it for two million dollars."

"The guide gets C minus for accuracy," said Williams. "And now, I'll tell you what really happened:

"Construction of the house was begun in 1860 by the Confederate general Hugh Mercer, Johnny Mercer's great-grandfather. It was unfinished when the Civil War broke out and after the war, General Mercer was imprisoned and tried for the murder of two army deserters. He was eventually acquitted, largely on the testimony of his son, and released from a jail a broken and very angry man. He sold the house, and the new owners completed it. So none of the Mercers ever lived here, including Johnny. Late in his life, though, Johnny used to drop in when he was in town. In fact, he taped a Mike Douglas show in the front yard. He once offered to buy the house, but I told him, 'Johnny, you don't need it, you'll end up playing houseboy to it just as I have.' And that's as close as he came to ever living here."

Williams leaned back and sent a thin stream of cigar smoke ceilingward. "I'll come to Jacqueline Onassis in a moment," he said, "but first I want to let you in on another piece of history that the tour guides never mention. It's an incident I call 'Flag Day.' It happened a couple of years ago."

He stood up and went over to the window. "Monterey Square is lovely," he said. "In my opinion, it's the most beautiful of all the squares in Savannah. The architecture, the trees, the monument, the way it all fits together. Moviemakers love it. Something like twenty feature films have been shot in Savannah in the past six years, and Monterey Square is one of their favorite shooting locations.

"Every time filming begins the town goes wild. Everybody wants to be an extra and meet the stars and watch from the sidelines. The mayor and the city councilmen think it's wonderful because the film companies will spend money here, and Savannah will become famous, and that will help tourism.

Excerpted from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. Copyright© 1994 by John Berendt. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Romanovs
    The Romanovs
    by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    The Romanovs chronicles the reigns of the 20 individuals who were considered members of that dynasty...
  • Book Jacket: Barkskins
    Barkskins
    by Annie Proulx
    Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, is not a book to read quickly. After a month of slow reading, I ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Marriage of Opposites
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's latest work, The Marriage of Opposites, is a historical fiction novel focusing on ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Imperial Wife
    by Irina Reyn

    A smart, engaging novel that parallels two fascinating worlds and two singular women.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Secret Language of Stones
    by M. J. Rose

    "A fantastic historical tale of war, love, loss and intrigue."
    – Melanie Benjamin

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Fair Fight
by Anna Freeman

A page-turning novel set in the world of 18th century female pugilists.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!