The Constant Gardener Paperback – Jul 27 2010
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
It seems that le Carre intended some sort of moral message here -- something along the lines of "big multinational drug companies are bad . . . really, really bad" -- and decided to wrap a story around his outrage. If that was indeed his intent, he failed on that score, too, because he just isn't convincing. The conspiracies he describes are a bit too over the top in their evilness and are filled with cartoonish bad guys, straining credulity. Those who already believe the worst about international corporations and their government co-conspirators will probably find validation in this book. But those looking for a good, old-fashioned thriller or a compelling character sketch are likely to be disappointed.
If all this profound thinking scares you away, don't let it. LeCarre includes an unprobable, doomed love story, a mystery to unravel, and a few surprises along the way as characters slowly reveal their true selves. This one is an intelligent page turner of high quality.
Le Carre's hallmarks of seamless narration, manipulation of the suspense, exquisite prose, investigative process, immaculate detailing, depth of understanding are all there. What is most appealing and touching is the passion. The plot:
British High Commission- Nairobi. The news comes to the chief of the administration Sandy that Tessa Quayle 25, the young and beautiful social activist wife of 40 year old Justin Quayle, the first secretary in the embassy has been murdered in a remote corner of Africa, alongwith her driver. Her companion -cum-Guru, Dr, Bluhm, A Nigerian doctor also an aid worker has gone missing. Tessa was a fiercely independent minded, jolly, daring aid worker affiliated to an UN agency. Tessa had strong opinions and didn't mind calling a spade a spade.
Justin Quayle, a mild mannered, simple-minded gentleman is shocked at the sudden death of his beloved wife. Justin had given full freedom and autonomy to Tessa who was half his age and had never bothered to find out what she was up to, and never interfered in her personal or professional life.
Justin is disturbed by the happenings around him. His colleagues and seniors, while expressing their deep sympathy and understanding are subtly questioning him to elicit some unknown information. Newspapers and local rags are printing all kinds of nonsensical stories: Tessa was in love with Dr.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Fiction is not my cup of tea. I simply don't care what a person looked like, what he thought or felt, and whom he loved, least of all when that person never really existed. Read morePublished on Aug. 8 2011 by Mira de Vries
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. Read morePublished on March 9 2007 by musicartlit
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. Read morePublished on June 11 2004 by Bortukan
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. Read morePublished on April 30 2004 by tessa
Enjoyed most of the story, the plot depth and the up-to-date scenario, but the ending was rather unimaginative and trivial. Read morePublished on April 13 2004
This was my first Le Carre book, and likely my last. If you're in the mood for an honest by hopeful message, this book isn't for you. Read morePublished on June 6 2002
So I'm staring down the barrel of a 36-hour plane ride, and wouldn't you know it, I left my book at the hotel. Read morePublished on April 28 2002 by Olly Buxton
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 -... Read morePublished on April 25 2002