The Constant Gardener Paperback – 21 Sep 2006
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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 text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Praise for The Constant Gardener (:)
The master storyteller...has lost none of his cunning (A. N. Wilson, Daily Mail)
The book breathes life, anger and excitement (Nigel Williams, Observer)
A cracking thriller (Economist)
Nobody writing today manipulates suspense better. Nobody constructs a more tantalisingly complex plot . . . essential reading (Chris Woodhead, Sunday Telegraph)
'Richly detailed, full of righteous fire to offset its desperate prognosis, The Constant Gardener is a very impressive piece of work. It is certainly one of John le Carré's best books' (The Times Literary Supplement)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
It centers around a 40-something English male trying to understand why his wife has been brutally murdered in Africa, and as a result finding out who is wife really was. But the real message is a stance against the multi-nationals that treat the third world with utter disdain.
Worth a read, but if you want one Mr Le Carre's best and most recent, try Absolute Friends.
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.
As an indictment of Western politics in Africa it does work. What happens in the book maybe exaggerated in its scope but is real. It is used as a testing ground and a dumping ground by western companies.
You sympathise with the African people. You feel that it is wrong to use them in this way. Yet, as the story shows, nothing really changes.
The only real letdown for me was the ending. Not the negative part just before - this is real - but the anti-climatic nature of Quayle's search.
Read it as its well written. I'd highly recommend Le Carre earlier works, which are superior.
In THE CONSTANT GARDENER, Justin Quayle is a faceless, government bureaucrat attached to the British High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya. His job is to represent Her Majesty's government on an international committee of other faceless bureaucrats charged with monitoring the efficiency at which aid moneys for the poor and starving reach the intended recipients. The committee has no investigatory authority, so high level and endemic African venality is ignored. On the other hand, Justin's wife, Tessa, belongs to a private group that investigates corruption with a vengeance. Her efforts have uncovered the criminally negligent misuse of a new drug, Dypraxa, designed to treat tuberculosis. The drug's manufacturer, megapharmaceutical KVH, is trialing Dypraxa on the indigenous African population, and apparently covering up the drug's fatal side effects. As THE CONSTANT GARDENER opens, Tessa has been found murdered on a field trip into the African bush. Is there a link?
The storyline unfolds from three viewpoints.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My first Lewis Carre novel. Current and closer to home than you feel comfortable thinking about. A great read. Think Robert Ludlum but English and therefore more real. Read morePublished 28 days ago by michael doyle
This book is unputdownable. It is about love and conscience and draws attention to how we think we are being honourable by merely doing our job well when in fact we are closing our... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Kindle Customer
Have the film, but wanted to read the book. So far I have not done so.Published 3 months ago by Mrs. D. P. A. Walters
This book held my attention from the moment I picked it up.
Good: good as all Le Carré's books are, have loved the film, so thought I should read the book as well, so far, so good !Published 3 months ago by Jill K. Andrew