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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read!
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...
Published on 19 May 2006 by M. Todd

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A plot smothered by narrative.
I became a Le Carre addict two decades ago. But his latest novel has now cured me. The theme - not so much a plot - is relatively straightforward and has great potential. But Le Carre has got carried away with his well known love of character development. Unfortunately The Constant Gardener has no characters of interest, and none of them even approach credibility. They...
Published on 25 Mar 2001


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read!, 19 May 2006
By 
M. Todd (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Constant Gardener (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
5.0 out of 5 stars The new "Out of Africa", 25 April 2006
This review is from: The Constant Gardener (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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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking thriller, 9 Sep 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Constant Gardener (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
4.0 out of 5 stars What Is Our Responsibility to Others?, 13 May 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
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. The press soon is having a field day making speculations about what Tessa was doing traveling under her maiden name with a black Doctor and sharing a room with him. Yet appearances are deceiving, and Justin soon begins to unravel an international plot of insidious proportions.
Tessa was a lawyer, and she had stumbled across "a great crime." Because of her husband's diplomatic role, they had agreed that she should pursue her investigation without involving him. "She follows her conscience. I get on with my job." As a result, he remained in his domesticated garden of diplomatic activity while she was stalking big game in the jungle of corporate greed. With her death, he leaves the garden of Eden having eaten of the Tree of Knowledge, and follows her pathway.
Many people will find that the plot moves too slowly for them. After 30 percent of the book, you will already have figured out the mystery of "a great crime" (even if someone doesn't tell you the plot in advance as some reviewers may do). Clearly, the book could have been shortened by 100 to 150 pages without losing any important material from my perspective.
While you are dragging through document after document, keep in mind the benefits of Le Carre's approach. One reason for this extra length is because Le Carre provides elaborate raw detail, so that the reader feels like he or she is Justin and pursuing the wrong-doing directly. Another benefit of this bulk is that readers who may not be familiar with the details of pharmaceutical research, political lobbying, and business promotional practices will avoid being lost by the story. If you are familiar with this type of information, the story will definitely drag. Another reason for the involved material is that Le Carre is painting with a very broad brush and wants to be sure that you know that he is indicting all of society . . . not just the bad guys. The final reason seems to be a desire to present the fumbling efforts of an amateur investigator in a realistic way. All in all, these sections work, but they are extraordinarily laborious for the reader.
I thought that the main weakness of the book related to the actions of the business people involved. I found their greed, short-sightedness, and viciousness to be so extreme as to not be credible. A novelist asks us to suspend our disbelief inorder to enjoy the story. Here, the author has gone too far. Le Carre would have done well to have backed off a bit and colored them with some white and gray as well. As depicted, these executives seem to be pure disciples of Satan himself. That darkness is relieved by having many characters with white and gray qualities as well, but modern readers are accustomed to a bit more reality in their novels.
An important minor weakness is found in the science involved. Those who like great scientific realism will find the descriptions here a little off the mark in several places, particularly in terms of how toxicity is tested and revealed.
The book's greatest strength is challenging the natural human tendency to focus on what's right around us, the garden we tend. If we do so, we are very vulnerable to having those who watch the guardians be corrupted. In the process of that debasement, we are all lost. "We all betrayed her." is the sentence in this book that will haunt you afterwards. In this way, John Donne's poetry of "No Man Is An Island" is recalled.
A particularly rewarding stylistic device is starting the narration from the perspective of an outside observer who does not know the facts before switching to Justin's perspective. As a result, you will appreciate better the extent to which appearances can be deceiving . . . like the beautiful garden that a murderer may have filled with the bodies of victims.
After you have finished the story and have let its power wash over you, I suggest that you pick an area where you can explore ways to improve awareness of and interest in moral choices. How can you help others become constant to their moral purposes?
Look out for the needs of others, who are not speaking to you about their suffering!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A plot smothered by narrative., 25 Mar 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Constant Gardener (Hardcover)
I became a Le Carre addict two decades ago. But his latest novel has now cured me. The theme - not so much a plot - is relatively straightforward and has great potential. But Le Carre has got carried away with his well known love of character development. Unfortunately The Constant Gardener has no characters of interest, and none of them even approach credibility. They all - diplomats, policemen, international businessmen - speak a curious, veiled and telegraphese kind of language which simply doesn't ring true. And do they talk! In Le Carre's early books we, his avid fans, didn't question the peculiarity of speech and behaviour attributed to members of The Great Game. Who among us knew otherwise? But now that Le Carre cuts and pastes the same formula onto less esoteric characters it just doesn't work, I'm sorry to say.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A passionate depiction of the best and worst of human nature, 28 Oct 2005
This review is from: The Constant Gardener (Paperback)
Having not picked up a le Carre book for quite a number of years now, I have not stopped wondering why, ever since starting The Constant Gardener. While le Carre has not lost any of the gritty realism that was alway essential to his storytelling, this novel is also fired by obvious passion and strongly held personal convictions about it's main theme, the exploitation of third world countries by multinational Pharmas, which gives it an added edge. That said, whatever you views on globalisation, this is a rich and rewarding book, filled with le Carre's wonderfully detailed characters, artfully crafted suspence and a tragically human lovestory.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars engaging read, 23 Feb 2007
By 
Lindsey Lee (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Constant Gardener (Paperback)
I don't usually persevere with books that take a long time to get going, but this was definitely worth sticking with. The trouble at the beginning for me was that I didn't really know who the story would focus on (Woodrow was a bit of a red herring), and it was a good couple of hundred pages before I really wanted to pick it up every time I saw it. But the characters do develop, and as Justin escapes the clutches of the diplomatic service to discover what happened to his wife, the plot goes along at a good pace. The story uncovers some pretty harsh observations about what goes on in the Third World with regard to pharmaceutical products, and Le Carre says himself at the end that compared to the reality, this book reads like a holiday postcard. Tessa's character was haunting, and I felt that by the end I knew her quite well, though she had been killed before the story opens. It has inspired me to question what goes on in the world a little more.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping novel that ranks alongside the best of Le Carre, 23 Mar 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Constant Gardener (Audio CD)
Le Carre has explores the dark side of the pharmaceutical industry in this tale of greed, corruption, love and murder.
Another departure from the spy novels that we associate with Le Carre, this book should appeal to anyone who enjoys a gripping tale and has a conscience. I strongly recommend Le Carre's own reading of the book on tape or CD.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a book!, 12 Feb 2009
By 
Bc V. Price "Bernard Price" (Bristol UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Constant Gardener (Paperback)
I am by no means as you can see the first to review this book. I also did not see the film when it was released a few years ago. I have to say I have come to read this book quite late after its initial publication. However, having just finished the novel as part of a reading group I belong to this book has left an indelible impression on me. How much of this book is faced on fact or real characters, it certainly makes you think!

Anyway, what a book! Is it a love story? Spy story? Or even a murder mystery? Or all three? It certainly has elements of all these genres. The book is full of political intrigue, featuring a controversial subject. The novel is structured around the machinations of the pharmaceutical industry. The book explains the way in which third world countries (in this novel primarily Kenya and the African continent) are used as `guinea pigs' by a major pharmaceutical company - KVH and its distribution partner in Kenya The Three Bees who foist a drug Dypraxa on a population of Kenyan villagers who are suffering from Tuberculosis. The drug however is not fully stable for international dispensing and it is through bribery and corruption that has led to the drug being tried out on poor Kenyans with disastrous results. Le Carre highlights the way in which these companies buy and then influence opinion amongst governments, academics and the medical profession through bribery, coaxing, blackmail and plain bullying. It is exquisitely written, full of intrigue and despite the books length a real `page turner'!
How sad that Justin Quayle would appear to suffer the fate of his wife Tessa. It seems the `bad guys' win in the end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute treasure of a book., 2 April 2007
By 
Teemacs (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Constant Gardener (Paperback)
I'm a sucker for good writing. If Karl Marx had written the Communist Manifesto as beautifully, as wittily, as elegantly, as John Le Carré writes, I'm sure I'd be a die-hard card-carrying member of the Party. And Mr. Le Carré really does it superbly in this book. The technique alone is dazzling and you spend a large part of your time admiring how he pulls it off, the felicitous choice of form and language, the admirable characterisation, the marvellous, witty dialogue. There's much more to telling a good story than simply having a good story. To give it life beyond mere words on a page requires talent. Mr. Le Carré has it in spades. The only criticism I can make is that it runs out of steam a little towards the end, but this is a trifling flaw compared to all the other good things in the book.

The story? It is indeed a good one. With the Cold War over and George Smiley pensioned off, Mr. Le Carré has very successfully turned his attention to an intersection (better still, a collision) of two of the world's ills, Africa and Big Pharma. Big Pharma is merely a manifestation of modern capitalism (where's my Manifesto?), that is, greedy bordering on rapacious - there are few medicines for tropical diseases, because there's no money in them. We're soooo sorry for Africa, we'll look at it when we've finished improving shareholder value, perhaps toss it a crumb or two. A cure for AIDS (if such a thing be possible) will be discovered accidentally by someone researching a "lifestyle" drug. I can only hope that Big Pharma doesn't improve shareholder value in the way depicted in this story. Buy this book. Now.
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The Constant Gardener
The Constant Gardener by John Le Carré (Paperback - 4 Oct 2001)
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