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The Constant Gardener Paperback – 4 Oct 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 570 pages
  • Publisher: Coronet; New edition edition (4 Oct. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034073339X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340733394
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 17.5 x 3.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 889,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John le Carré was born in 1931. His third novel, THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, secured him a wide reputation which was consolidated by the acclaim for his trilogy TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, THE HONOURABLE SCHOOLBOY and SMILEY'S PEOPLE. His other novels include THE CONSTANT GARDENER, A MOST WANTED MAN and OUR KIND OF TRAITOR.

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Amazon Review

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 text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


A powerful, moving novel ... essential reading (Sunday Telegraph)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By M. Todd on 19 May 2006
Format: Paperback
I read the book after seeing the film so this may have made it easier to follow for me. I absolutely loved the film and while there are quite a lot of differences between the film and the book, I was not dissapointed.

The story follows Justin trying to trace the killers of his wife Tessa. We get to know Tessa through her husbands flashbacks and the story is written from a the point of view of a number of different characters. It is set in Kenya, England and Italy. It is essentially a love story but also a mystery.

The author writes in a way that keeps you turning pages to find the next twist in the plot. I think not seeing the film first would make the book even more gripping to read. The authors style is fantastic, not giving too much away too soon and leaving some of the story to the readers imagination. Its not the type of book I normally read and I thought it may be heavy going, I was pleasantly surprised. A fantastic story with a gripping end. I cannot reccomend it highly enough.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Tim Bentley on 25 April 2006
Format: Paperback
Le Carre to me has always represented intrigue, twisted plots with subtle sub-plots, and the master himself George Smiley. In this offering, Le Carre most certainly delivers although dear George doesn't get a look in. The story is woven about the life and death of the wife of a British Diplomat, Tessa Quayle, and the unmasking of a conspiracy that threatens to cripple Anglo-Kenyan relations. The diplomat, Justin Quayle, exhibits classic, even stereo-typical British cool in investigating the real reasons for his young wife's demise, while showing an insight into the strains and pressures of ex-pat officialdom.

Le Carre's strengths in this novel are in the way that some truly undesirable notions are brought to the readers attention, and the fact that he doesn't rose tint them just emphasises some of the realities of how we in the developed 'west' salve our guilt about sickness and poverty in Africa. That having been said, Le Carre also manages to construct a pretty good impression of the raw beauty of Africa and the culture of some of the people there.

If there are any weaknesses in the novel I would say that the ending stopped a little short and left me wondering what would happen next, particularly in London. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book, and now view the multi-national Phamaceuticals in a slightly different light.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 Sept. 2002
Format: Paperback
Although some think of John Le Carre's novels as airport/ beach reading, I must whole-heartedly disagree. The Constant Gardener is another fine example of his excellent writing. The plot starts simply when a British Foreign Office worker in Nairobi finds out that his wife has been brutally murdered on the shores of Lake Turkana. She was an aid-worker on her way with a colleague to uncover corruption in the pharmaceutical industry. As the story progresses not only does the husband realise how little he knows about his wife, but we realise that not everyone is as they seem. There are no clear villains in the story, which actually makes it scarily believable. Le Carre deftly weaves the story through different characters' point of view yet even the reader does not discover what really happened until Justin, the husband discovers it. This is a thoroughly enjoyable book; one you can't put down and a great introduction to the wit and skill of John Le Carre's writing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 May 2004
Format: Hardcover
In this sweeping story of moral obligation, you will look at the world from the saint's pathway, as explored by the saint's husband. The trials by fire are very real here, and that makes a consideration of choosing the right path all the more real and important.

The English Gardener is the most unusual and darkest of all the Le Carre novels about human nature, exceeding even The Little Drummer Girl in these regards. This book has more in common with the psychological crisis in Heart of Darkness than with the George Smiley spy novels. You will definitely, however, find some stylistic carry-overs from the cold war books.
Despite all of The English Gardener's emotionally disturbing features, there is beauty here . . . the beauty of idealism, love, and honor. Even in the densest, most forbidding jungle, wild flowers will relieve the darkness and provide hope. Every reader will be challenged to her or his core by the thought, "You think you're solving the world's problems but actually you're the problem."
Before describing the novel in more detail, let me caution all of those who are easily upset by the human ability to be inhumane, that this book teems with incidents of inhumanity in many of its worst forms. The emotional impact of this novel is intense and lasting. You may well have dreams (or nightmares) about it.
On the surface, the book is a detective story. Fragmentary reports and rumors seep in of a horrific and mysterious murder in Kenya of Tessa Quayle, the young newly-wed wife of a middle-aged British diplomat, Justin Quayle. Everyone knows more than they are telling, and seems to want to hush matters up except for two young English investigators.
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