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The Constant Gardener [Paperback]

John Le Carre
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 27 2010



Tessa Quayle-young, beautiful, and dearly beloved to husband Justin-is gruesomely murdered in northern Kenya. When Justin sets out on a personal odyssey to uncover the mystery of her death, what he finds could make him not only a suspect but also a target for Tessa's killers.

A master chronicler of the betrayals of ordinary people caught in political conflict, John le Carré portrays the dark side of unbridled capitalism as only he can. In The Constant Gardener he tells a compelling, complex story of a man elevated through tragedy as Justin Quayle-amateur gardener, aging widower, and ineffectual bureaucrat-discovers his own natural resources and the extraordinary courage of the woman he barely had time to love.



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There were those who feared that the end of the Cold War would deal a fatal blow to the creativity of many first-rate thriller writers who specialised in this territory. In the case of John le Carré, this would have meant the loss of not only Britain's finest thriller writer, but a serious novelist of quite as much literary gravitas as any of his mainstream contemporaries. Certainly, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold remains as utterly compelling today as when it was written, whereas such post-cold war le Carré themes as financial double-dealing seemed to inspire him less than the world of shifting identity he had dealt in so skilfully. But with The Constant Gardener, we have the author once again firing on all cylinders. The characterisation is as elegant and expressive as ever, the prose as limpid and forceful. But, most of all, le Carré has found a theme quite as pregnant as any he has handled in the past: the malign, deceptively ameliorative world of global pharmaceuticals. In the new novel, the customary themes of betrayal and danger are explored in a narrative that exerts a total grip throughout its considerable length. His protagonist, Justin Quayle, is an unreflective British diplomat whose job in the British High Commission in Nairobi suggests one of Graham Greene's dispossessed protagonists trying to survive in the sultry corruption of foreign climates. President Arap Moi's Kenya is a country in the grip of AIDS, while political machinations maintain a deadly status quo. When Quayle's wife (who has taken more interest in what is happening around her than her husband) is killed, his investigation of her murder leads him into a murky web of exploitation involving Kenyan greed and a major pharmaceutical company eager to promote its "wonder cure" for tuberculosis. As Quayle looks deeper into the company which his wife had been investigating, all he has carefully built around him begins to crumble. The steady accumulation of tension and rigorous delineation of character is emblematic of le Carré at his finest, and it is a tremendous pleasure to find the author so resolutely back on form, fired with a real sense of anger at the duplicity of the modern world:
"Specious, unadulterated, pompous Foreign Office bullshit, if you want its full name... trade isn't making the poor rich. Profits don't buy reforms. They buy corrupt government officials and Swiss bank accounts".
--Barry Forshaw (This Review refers to the hardback edition of this title) --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

From Publishers Weekly

As the world seems to move ever further beyond the comparatively clear-cut choices of the Cold War into a moral morass in which greed and cynicism seem the prime movers, le Carr 's work has become increasingly radical, and this is by far his most passionately angry novel yet. Its premise is similar to that of Michael Palmer's Miracle CureDcynical pharmaceutical firm allied with devious doctors attempts to foist on the world a flawed but potentially hugely profitable drugDbut the difference is in the setting and the treatment. Le Carr has placed the prime action in Africa, where the drug is being surreptitiously tested on poor villagers. Tessa Quayle, married to a member of the British High Commission staff in corruption-riddled contemporary Kenya, gets wind of it and tries in vain to blow the whistle on the manufacturer and its smarmy African distributor. She is killed for her pains. At this point Justin Quayle, her older, gentlemanly husband, sets out to find out who killed her, and to stop the dangerous drug himselfDat a terrible cost. Le Carr 's manifold skills at scene-setting and creating a range of fearsomely convincing English characters, from the bluffly absurd to the irredeemably corrupt, are at their smooth peak here. Both The Tailor of Panama and Single & Single were feeling their way toward this wholehearted assault on the way the world works, by a man who knows much better than most novelists writing today how it works. Now subject and style are one, and the result is heart-wrenching. (Jan. 9) Forecast: Admirers of the author who may have found some of the moral ambiguities and overelaborate set pieces of his last two books less than top-drawer le Carr will welcome a return to his best form. There is a wonderfully charismatic and idealistic heroine, which will bolster female readership, and the appearance of the book shortly after the release of a movie of Tailor (starring Jamie Lee Curtis) is bound to create an extra rush of media attention. Be prepared for the biggest le Carr sales in years.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant; LeCarre's a craftsman March 9 2007
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is a brilliant book. This is not just 'a great read'. This is actually literature, it's so well written. The story is crafted, it does not hurry but it is not at all slow. You're given insight into the characters/the players and he puts you right inside Justin's head: the depth, the sensitivity, the intelligence, the paranoia, the love, the determination....This is the first Le Carre I've read and it blew me away. It is not 'fluff' like other very popular contemporary books out there. It's prompted me to read more Le Carre. These people who don't 'get' this book are pretty shallow. So, if you don't care for a beautifully crafted, engrossing story, don't read this. The movie only scratches the surface of this book, by the way. I read the book before the movie came out - having read the book, the movie was a disappointment. As fine as the movie is, it does not do the book justice.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Very weak and unfocused. Nov. 24 2008
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Like a few others, this was the first, and last Le Carre book I'll read.
I just finished reading the book, and I have to say I thought that it was extremely weak. The premises was alright, but the characters, the dialog, the writing in general just seemed, in my opinion, unfocused and undramatic. I'm all for slow starts and strong character development, but if this story had any I would have enjoyed it. Since I started reading it the book annoyed me. The only reason I finished it was because I was half way through and I didn't want to waste all that time reading it, but it was still a waste.
There is no real climax to the story. No satisfying answer to any questions. Again, I'm all for sad endings because they make you think deeply about the story and possibly your own position in life, but this book just drops off into a very weak ending that certainly didn't justify all the time I spent reading this terrible ramble. I'd give it 0 stars if I could!
P.s. Also, just a little personal note, a quarter way through this book I vowed never to read any modern paperback novels again. I find that today's publications are utter crap, and have noticed that most often the newer the writing, the simpler and 'dumber' the English gets. Of course there are a few exceptions, but The Constant Gardner is not one of them.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Decent airplane reading June 11 2004
This is a decent book for reading on a plane or when you're tired; well written enough not to be irritating, but still in the totally undemanding "popcorn" category. It did play on my pet peeves in a funny way that I assume was intentional. At first I thought I was going to end up hurling it across the room. It seemed like one of those "gorgeous, intelligent, rich young woman falls for overweight, middle-aged, pompous jerk" plotlines I get so tired of, presumably aimed at delusional male readers. Fortunately, a few chapters later everything changed for the better. If you need a book of this type at the airport stand, you could do much worse, so don't give up on it right away like I almost did.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Secrets April 30 2004
By tessa
This book poses Le Carre's view of the world - that is, people get stuck in a web of lies but only a few dare to break out and do something about it. And if they do, they pay for their audacity with their very lives.
I think this is book has its strong moments but it also had moments when the reader is forced to put it down out of lack of interest. I think Mr. Le Carre is trying to prove a point here, but he fails at certain paragraphs of the novel.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting...But, not a treasure. April 13 2004
By A Customer
Enjoyed most of the story, the plot depth and the up-to-date scenario, but the ending was rather unimaginative and trivial. Not, among le Carre' best work; 'The Night Manager' or near his worst; 'The Tailor of Panama' - to avoided at all cost.
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5.0 out of 5 stars spectacular book April 26 2002
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
John Le-Carre is one of the most important writers of our time, to my opinion. He gives us the tools to understand the milieu of international relations in the world we live in - information that our leaders are trying to conceal from us in the name of "our best interest". This book has an added feature: The power of pharmaceutical companies, and the motives that will direct this power into action - beside the love of fellow human beings. According to Le-Carre, compared to the information he has, the industry that is portrayed in his book is "as tame as a holiday card". In a way I'm an insider, and I agree. You may care to get an idea of it.
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2.0 out of 5 stars a novel reworked as a polemic April 11 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Nothing wrong with polemics if you agree with the point of view of the polemicist... And, nobody seems to have picked up on the similarity of this book to Small Town in Germany, even down to the voluntary crucifixion of the hero at the end. The background and local color are informative and tend to reinforce the impression that Africa may not be a nice place to live but I wouldn't want to visit there.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great intrigue, masterful attention to detail March 19 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is an excelent read, Le Carré efforlessly moves the world around his characters, making them feel every new detail in their lives. Also, an excelent story written in a delightful manner.
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