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The Constant Gardener

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Now a major motion picture from Fernando Meirelles, the Academy Award-nominated director of City of God

The Constant Gardener is a magnificent exploration of the new world order by one of the most compelling and elegant storytellers of our time. The novel opens in northern Kenya with the gruesome murder of Tessa Quayle--young, beautiful, and dearly beloved to husband Justin. 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 among his own colleagues, but a target for Tessa's killers as well.

A master chronicler of the betrayals of ordinary people caught in political conflict, John le Carre 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.

482 pages, Paperback

First published January 4, 2001

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About the author

John le Carré

394 books8,246 followers
John le Carré, the pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell (born 19 October 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England), was an English author of espionage novels. Le Carré had resided in St Buryan, Cornwall, Great Britain, for more than 40 years, where he owned a mile of cliff close to Land's End.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,686 reviews
Profile Image for Candi.
623 reviews4,716 followers
February 20, 2021
“She had witnessed a monstrous injustice and gone out to fight it. Too late, he too had witnessed it. Her fight was his.”

I hate to say it, but I’m not a big fan of thrillers. I apologize to my thriller-loving friends. As long as you’re happy with them, my opinion counts for diddly-squat. I'm not typically drawn to fast-paced action in my reading life. I'm a characters, reflective reading kind of gal. However, if thrillers were all written in the style of John le Carré, I would happily join the ranks of the true addicts! I can get on board with a smart, literary thriller.

I’ve read several of le Carré’s espionage novels over the past two years. They were all unexpected delights. The Constant Gardener deviates a bit from what I’m accustomed to from this author. Having read this, I now believe that he could have written any sort of novel and would have captured my attention and merited my highest regard. This book delves into corporate politics and the corruption and abuse of power by first world countries meddling with emerging nations. More specifically, le Carré shines a light on big pharmaceutical companies and their dealings within the African continent. I worked for years in both pharmaceuticals as well as medical research, so this was a particularly relevant topic that was near and dear to my heart. He didn't set out on a crusade to vilify all drug companies and their representatives, but he was not afraid to point out that gray area in all things. This is what I love most about his writing, in fact. He uses that same masterful skill to depict his characters. They are never one-dimensional. Quite simply, le Carré knew people. He understood the many facets of human behavior. He put together the entire package of a rewarding reading experience - vivid settings, incredibly nuanced characters, intelligent writing, and in this book specifically, an exciting adventure.

“… just another bloody Monday in late January, the hottest time in the Nairobi year, a time of dust and water shortages and brown grass and sore eyes and heat ripping off the city pavements; and the jacarandas, like everybody else, waiting for the long rains.”

Oh, and did I mention a love story? No, please don’t run away! Just as le Carré wrote like no other thriller or espionage writer, he most certainly did not toe the line when it came to writing ‘romance’. It’s brilliant that one half of this love affair is kept off-screen, if you will, for the entirety of the novel’s length. Yet the presence and the immediacy of it all are right there. Tessa and Justin might seem like an unlikely couple, yet I wholly believed it; le Carré showed me that it is all so true. Even when the rest of the characters pointed out what they felt were inconsistencies, I had faith in the fact I would be shown over time just what this unconventional relationship was all about.

“The sun that had been shining down on her had disappeared and he could see her beautiful face and it was hurt and fugitive. And suddenly he knew her very well – better in that instant than he knew himself. He understood the burden of beauty and the curse of always being an event, and he realized he had scored a victory that he didn’t want. He knew his own insecurities and recognized them at work in her.”

There’s one negative about reading John le Carré’s work. Whatever book you choose next will never quite reach the same heights. Characters seem flat, plot lines less compelling. I’m usually underwhelmed with whatever follows. Fortunately, I have not exhausted the length of his list of works yet, so I know that I can always fall back on him when all else fails. I just don’t want to move too quickly. Just when I made the serendipitous discovery of his writing and fell completely in love, John le Carré passed away and we will no longer have any new stories created from his brilliant mind. I’ll cherish what remains on my list that much more.

“He had been drawn completely by accident into a beautiful play, and was captivated by it. He was in a different element, acting a part, and the part was the one he had often wanted to play in life, but never till now quite brought off.”
Profile Image for Nataliya.
784 reviews12.5k followers
July 4, 2022
“Drugs have got to be tried on somebody, haven't they?”
If I had to come up with just one word to describe this genre-defying book, it would be “angry”. Or maybe two words - angry and disillusioned. Or, if you want a third, then angry, disillusioned and bleak. And that’s where its strength is.
“Issue one: the side effects are being deliberately concealed in the interest of profit. Issue two: the world's poorest communities are used as guinea pigs by the world's richest. Issue three: legitimate scientific debate of these issues is stifled by corporate intimidation.”

This was my first exposure to John Le Carré, and I guess I was expecting a thriller. What I got wasn’t quite fitting the bill as I imagined it. Which is a good thing, I come to think. And yet my brain kept trying to fit it into a category. Thriller? Not in the conventional sense. Suspense? Not so much. Murder mystery? Nah, there’s a murder but not much mystery. Exposé? Perhaps but not quite.

What this ended up being in the end is a book of ruminations. Angry, disillusioned, bleak ruminations - on colonialism and corruption and capitalism and corporations and greed and power and abuses of it and secrets and martyrdom and marriage and guilt and complacencies and prejudices and condescension and well-fed indifference in the face of complacent satisfaction with profits. It’s a book that does not throw you a feel-good bone at any point, no rays of sunshine, no silver linings. No long-awaited and expected happy endings or vindications or comeuppances, really. The parasites in power are in power for a reason, after all. And I respect it — I hate the bleakness of it, but I respect the hell out of it. Le Carre doesn’t pull punches, and mostly gets it right.
“I mean, Jesus. Foreign Office isn't in the business of passing judgment on the safety of nonindigenous drugs, is it? Supposed to be greasing the wheels of British industry, not going round telling everybody that a British company in Africa is poisoning its customers. You know the game. We're not paid to be bleeding hearts. We're not killing people who wouldn't otherwise die. I mean, Christ, look at the death rate in this place. Not that anybody's counting.”

It’s an angry and bleak story of rich and powerful pharma mowing down those standing in the way of shareholders’ profits (to sum up, “Old, established, British-based company is poisoning innocent Kenyans, using 'em as guinea pigs”), hand in hand with both “civilized” and overtly corrupt governments, seemingly impartial scientists, organized and less-so-organized crime — and those on the other end whose lives and health are deemed expendable in the pursuit of more lucrative markets. As a slimy character genuinely inquires at some point, “Drugs have got to be tried on somebody, haven't they? I mean, who do you choose, for Christ's sake? Harvard Business School?”
“I am thinking I don't believe in me anymore, and all I stood for. That there was a time when, like the people in this building, your Justin took pride in submitting himself to the harsher judgments of a collective will--which he happened to call Country, or the Doctrine of the Reasonable Man or, with some misgiving, the Higher Cause. There was a time when I believed it was expedient that one man--or woman --should die for the benefit of many. I called it sacrifice, or duty, or necessity. There was a time when I could stand outside the Foreign Office at night and stare up at its lighted windows and think: Good evening, it's me your humble servant, Justin. I'm a piece of the great wise engine, and proud of it. I serve, therefore I feel. Whereas all I feel now is: it was you against the whole pack of them and, unsurprisingly, they won.”

My buddy-read partner Justin (no relation to Le Carré’s protagonist - I assume) brought my attention to Le Carré’s ear for language when depicting the speech of foreigners proficient in English but still foreigners enough for their “different” speech patterns to creep into otherwise almost immaculate English. Convincing “foreigner” speech is not easy to get across, and in hands of so many can be really cringeworthy, but Le Carré - perhaps based on his own years in non English-speaking countries - gets the subtle speech patterns and cadences just right, with echoes of a particular speaker’s language visible just enough to not convey that subtle mockery that foreigners’ speech can easily be colored with in the English-language literature.

Sadly, the main weakness for me was Tessa’s character. Tessa Quayle, an activist/martyr/crusader, whose brutal murder sets off the novel. Tessa, who comes off as an impassioned saint with that posthumous sheen of someone who’s undeniably in the right, the shiny beacon of humanity in the darkness of the world. It’s that damn posthumous sainthood of her that’s transmitted by every “good” character in their recollection of her that made her characterization weak for me, too cartoonishly annoyingly perfect to ever feel real. Maybe it was deliberate, the posthumous veneration - but it rang too simplistic, too didactic, too one-dimensional, unlike many other “greyer” characters. She did not seems real, Tessa-the-person, but the already legendary “Mama Tessa”. Maybe it was Le Carré’s intention all along, to show us the ghost memory of a good person we create rather than the actual layered and complicated human being — but if so, this gambit backfired for me, making her less well-drawn than the mildly despicable and yet complicated background characters - Sandy, Gloria, Lara and even awfully pathetic Lorbeer.
“She follows her conscience, I get on with my job. It was an immoral distinction. It should never have been made. It was like sending her off to church and telling her to pray for both of us. It was like drawing a chalk line down the middle of our house and saying see you in bed.”

Le Carré fares much better though with Justin Quayle, the “constant gardener”, the man once satisfied leading “equal and parallel lives” with his passionate wife, a polite mild-mannered man believing in the way things are — just to be shaken out of that complacency and to become and a thorn in the side of pretty much everyone with stakes in the lucrative game of pharma and politics and big money. The once quiet polite man no longer worried about causing offense — that was done convincingly well, all the way to the ending that I hated and yet could not see happening in any other way.
“So what changed that?” Lesley asked.
“We did,” Justin retorted with fervor. He meant the other we. We her survivors. We the guilty ones. “With our complacency,” he said, lowering his voice. “With this.” And here he made a gesture that embraced not just the dining room and Gloria's hideous watercolors impaled along the chimney breast, but the whole house round them, and its occupants, and by inference the other houses in the street. “We who are paid to see what's going on, and prefer not to. We who walk past life with our eyes down.”

It took me a moment to gather my thoughts and figure out where I stand on this book. It certainly could have been trimmed quite a bit, making it much tighter. It certainly could have given a bit more subtlety to Tessa Quayle. It certainly could have made Justin Quayle a bit less laughably clueless about computers. But then it still managed to create something special out of the bleak conspiracy and slightly hopeful rather than crushing defeat and the unfathomable power imbalances. And that managed to work, although in a rather depressing way. But hey, there are comfort reads elsewhere and this book doesn’t need to be one. This one is meant to make you unsettled, and in that, it succeeds.

Rounding to 4 bleak angry stars.

Thanks for buddy read, Justin! I would not have picked up a Le Carré book without your enthusiasm for his writing.

Recommended by: Left Coast Justin
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,195 reviews1,816 followers
June 16, 2023

Tessa e Justin.

Un Le Carré insolitamente semplice da riassumere, almeno nel suo nucleo essenziale: Tessa, la moglie di Justin, un diplomatico inglese di base in Kenya, viene uccisa, e il marito indaga; viene fuori un complotto internazionale che fa perno su una multinazionale farmaceutica che porta avanti una bieca e cinica sperimentazione medica sulla popolazione locale, che a sua insaputa viene usata come cavia.

Un attacco a Big Pharma, tra i primi che io ricordi, considerato che questo romanzo è uscito nel 2001: la multinazionale messa in campo da Le Carré fa riferimento alla ben nota Pfizer, e i fatti ai quali Le Carré si ispira sono successi davvero, ma in un altro paese africano, la Nigeria.
Un’occasione per mostrare la sua sensibilità umanitaria che rende questo suo thriller, così diverso dai classici su e con George Smiley, particolarmente palpitante.

Il corpo di Tessa, soprannominata la “Principessa Diana dei diseredati africani” per la sua attività di volontariato presso gli ospedali di Nairobi , viene ritrovato sulla riva del lago Turkana. Dell’uomo che la accompagnava, il dottor Bluhm, non v’è traccia: Bluhm è un africano che le faceva da autista e da guida. La morte e la scomparsa accadono all’inizio della storia, quindi non sto anticipando nulla.
Justin, il marito rimasto vedovo, uomo mite, si rende conto d’aver trascurato sua moglie, forse proprio per la sua passione espressa dal titolo del romanzo, l’amore per il giardinaggio, caratteristica così dannatamente britannica: inizia a indagare in proprio, l’immagine della bella moglie uccisa non lo abbandona, sospetta che potesse esserci un amante di mezzo… Capisce che proprio Tessa aveva scoperto la sperimentazione di un nuovo farmaco testato a insaputa e rischio della popolazione locale più povera e indifesa: Tessa stava raccogliendo le prove di questo enorme scandalo.
Moglie e marito non avrebbero potuto essere caratterialmente più diversi: coinvolta, impegnata, testa calda lei, distaccato, tranquillo, assorto lui.

E così, solo contro tutti, finalmente meno ripiegato su se stesso, più va avanti nella sua indagine e più Justin si immerge in un mondo dove la corruzione fa a gara col cinismo, dove spietatezza è sinonimo di potere e affari… Naturalmente non potrebbe mancare lo spionaggio internazionale, magnifica spezia che Le Carré sa dosare a meraviglia.
La vita e la personalità di Tessa vengono ricostruiti con flashback, saltando tra piani temporali. La ricostruzione diventa scoperta sia per il lettore che per Justin che veniamo a capire non conosceva sua moglie abbastanza. A volte è il dialogo che spinge indietro nel tempo, a volte il pensiero, le scene vengono interrotte per essere completate più tardi, come piace strutturare i suoi romanzi a Le Carré: scelta che ricorda quelle partite di scacchi dove si presentano diverse soluzioni, ma tutte richiedono troppe mosse, e una sola è quella giusta ed elegante.

Forse il migliore Le Carré post Smiley, secondo me. Senz’altro il più rabbioso, il più appassionato.
Riuscito anche il film omonimo diretto dal brasiliano Fernando Meirelles che arrivava dal successo di City of God, nel quale numerose narrazioni affluivano in un unico possente corpo centrale: il regista mette il suo talento autoriale al servizio del suo primo thriller internazionale con buon risultato. Bel cast che provvede buone performance, tra tutte quella della coppia protagonista, Rachel Weisz e Ralph Fiennes. Impossibile dimenticare il bellissimo brano “Kothbiro” interpretato da Ayub Ogada che ritorna più volte, una di quelle gemme generate dalla Real World di Peter Gabriel.

Profile Image for Supratim.
233 reviews451 followers
June 17, 2018
Let me begin by saying that this book is not just a thriller! It is much more than that. In the guise of a thriller the novel tells the story of how money and power can crush the voices of the good people who try to fight injustice.

The story begins with a scene in the British High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya. The Head of Chancery, Sandy Woodrow, is informed about the murder of Tessa Quayle – a humanitarian and wife of a British diplomat, Justin Quayle, posted in the High Commission.

Justin is our “constant gardener” : a man who "loves nothing better than toiling in the flowerbeds on a Saturday afternoon - a gentleman , whatever that means - the right sort of Etonian, courteous to a fault ...".

I personally found Tessa to be the most striking character in the novel. We start knowing about her in flashbacks. A beautiful, young woman who was born in a wealthy family, Tessa had no interest in enjoying her wealth. She was a true believer in justice and humanity, a person who fought against the mighty corporates that were exploiting the most vulnerable sections of the Africans. These corporates were using the poor defenseless Africans as guinea pigs while they tried their drug on them, before the said medication could be launched in the lucrative markets of the West. The deaths of the victims were a thing to be brushed under the carpet.

Tessa’s fight brought her in conflict with a pharma giant, and guess what – the corrupt Kenyan government and the British government were not only mute spectators to this crime, but in collusion with ensuring that the affair did not come to light.

Tessa was murdered while travelling with Dr. Arnold Bluhm, a charismatic Belgian “black” who was her fellow activist and supposed lover. Arnold would go missing, and the powers that be would put the blame on this gentleman’s shoulders.

The callous press would have a field day in tarnishing the image of this good man, and Justin would emerge as a cuckolded husband. After all, Tessa was much younger than Justin and Arnold was her close friend and confidant.

Tessa’s death would make Justin embark on a journey: to carry on with Tessa’s fight against injustice and in the course he would also learn so much more about his late wife. Justin, the mild gentleman, would go AWOL, learn to live like a spy and travel across continents trying to collect evidence. He would be helped by some really brave individuals, who were themselves harassed and persecuted for protesting against the pharma giant.

The pharma giant won’t sit idle: using their influence with the government, hackers and thugs they would try to destroy all evidence against them, attack Justin in an effort to stop him. But, deriving strength from the memory of his wife Justin would soldier on.

The book talks about a very serious issue in the form of a thriller and is superbly written with complex characterizations and clever plotting. The author says that the book is a result of extensive research. It did drag a bit at times, but I am fine with that. Le Carre is famous for his Cold War novels, but this one is excellent. The author admits that he is not against pharmas. They do a lot of good too, he also says that “ my story is as tame as a holiday postcard.”

If you are looking for a “high octane; adrenaline pumping" adventure, then book is not for you. It is the moving tale of one man’s quest for justice and a feeling of bereavement pervades the narrative.

I would recommend this novel to people who love reading good books.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,730 followers
December 7, 2015
“The most peaceble people will do the most terrible things when they're pushed.”
― John le Carré, The Constant Gardener


I have been a little reluctant to read le Carré's post-Cold War, post-Smiley novels. Part of my reluctance was borne of some false assumption that le Carré's masterpieces were mostly weighted towards the front end of his brilliant career. 'The Constant Gardener' blew all my assumptions up. It is amazing how le Carré can write such a masterful novel and such a popular book. Many of the MFA literary novels published during the last thirty years will quickly slump and dissolve into the dust of mediocrity, but I am certain this novel (along with many of le Carré's earlier novels: the Perfect Spy, the Karla Trilogy, the Spy Who Came in From the Cold, the Russia House) WILL be read in three hundred+ years.

Le Carré is amazing. He doesn't fall into the easy path. Yes, Big Pharma is bad, but not in some monolithic/caricatured way. It doesn't just do evil, but does many things that are good. This is le Carré's style. There is infinite shading that he does with EVERYTHING. Each character is shaded, and mirrors each other character. Some characters are flipped, some are mirrored, some are distortions, but each character is complicated, nuanced and difficult to view from one position. Le Carré writes with an artistry that makes it impossible to not love the good, despite their faults, and still appreciate the human-like frailties of the bad.

A good friend of mine (who has ghostwritten several bestsellers the last couple years) calls this novel the greatest love story of the last fifty years. I find that claim difficult to dispute. It isn't a traditional love story, and not exactly a happy love story, but it is an amazing story of loyalty, love and understanding that leaves the reader both tired and sated.

If one day I discovered I could write a novel that was just 1/2 as good as 'The Constant Gardener', I would think I had been blessed with a masterpiece.
Profile Image for Anne .
455 reviews376 followers
July 3, 2021
The Constant Gardener is the perfect title for this novel in that it's a double entendre that describes two important aspects of Justin, our titular “constant gardener.” He was brought up to join the ''family firm,'' as his father called the Foreign Office, and he has cultivated the image of ''a sweet chap passionately interested in nothing except phlox, asters, freesias and gardenias.'' Justin gardened “constantly, in one sense, as an escape from a world he viewed as very dark: ’'Man was vile and evermore would be so. The world contained a small number of reasonable souls of whom Justin happened to be one. Their job, in his simple view, was to head off the human race from its worst excesses -- with the proviso that when two sides were determined to blow each other to smithereens, there was precious little a reasonable person could do about it.’'

Justin was also “constant” in his love for his wife, Tessa. In flashbacks throughout the novel we learn about Tessa and Justin’s love for and relationship with her. Tessa is described as his polar opposite: emotional where he is objective; an outspoken advocate for the disenfranchised. And she’s gorgeous. Almost every man in this novel is in love with her (a bit of overkill, Mr. le Carre). We are told at the beginning of the novel that she has been murdered along with a male companion, Dr. Bluhm, due to her digging into and attempts at fighting of one company’s corruption coverup.

Justin is immediately suspected of her murder due to jealously of her relationship with Dr. Bluhm. Having dismissed these suspicions Justin goes deep into the dark world he has been avoiding, embarking on a personal and very risky investigation of her death. He isn't gardening anymore. He learns that Tessa and Dr. Bluhm were looking into a new anti-tuberculosis drug being given to impoverished Kenyans; that they had become convinced that the drug's distributor, a multinational company, had knowingly ignored data about the drug's dangerous side effects; that Kenyans were being used as guinea pigs in a race to come to market before a competing company could do so. We meet the scientists who, having signed deals with the company, were pressured to either ignore or falsify the evidence of fatal side effects of the drug under investigation. "The drug is good", says one of the inventors of the drug, "we just did not have enough time to test it out before releasing it." This excuse is all the more astounding because it is actually an admission of using the drug before it's efficacy and side effects are known. And then there is the African promoter of the drug who states that these people 'would die anyway’ as an excuse to liberally use the drug.

The first half of The Constant Gardener is an excellent mystery with beautifully written prose and emotional detail about the characters, but the novel slowly devolves into a more conventional thriller, devoid of the psychological nuance and moral ambiguity that were so marked in another le Carre stand alone novel (which I loved), The Little Drummer Girl. The good guys are very good and the bad guys are very bad.

The aspect of the novel which I enjoyed most were Justin’s recollections during the course of the novel of his wife and their loving relationship. This is how we get to know Tessa. Also, during Justin’s search for Tessa’s killer he (and we) learn(s) about the risks Tessa took but kept from him. He also learns things about himself and is changed in the process. He becomes angry with himself for keeping his head in the sand, or more specifically, in his garden, blind to his beloved wife’s risky undertakings.

If the extent of the corruption in this novel sound bad le Carre lets us know in the Afterward that his novel lets his readers off easy with the details he shares:

"As my journey through the pharmaceutical jungle progressed, I came to realize that, by comparison with the reality, my story was as tame as a holiday postcard.” John le Carre
Profile Image for Solistas.
147 reviews103 followers
July 11, 2017
Πολυπρόσωπη, καθηλωτική αφήγηση απ'τον μαιτρ στα καλύτερά του. Στα συν η Κένυα που βρίσκεται στο προσκήνιο (κ είναι η χώρα-κόλλημα φέτος), ότι είχα στα χέρια μου ένα ταλαίπωρο Bellάκι που είχα βρει για 1ε στην Αμοργό πριν 2 χρόνια (τα είχα βρει σχεδόν όλα) κ ότι δεν θυμόμουν τίποτα απ'την ταινία κ το διάβαζα με κομμένη την ανάσα.

April 24, 2021
«Ο επίμονος κηπουρός».
Μαύρη ήπειρος λένε, έτσι χαρακτηρίζεται η Αφρική, εκεί όπου η γη σταματάει να γυρίζει αδιάκοπα γύρω απο τον άξονα της, ξεχνάει τον έρωτα της για τον ήλιο και παίρνει μαζί της ένα παράδοξο σύμπαν να της κάνει παρέα σε αυτή την ψυ��εδελική στάση που άξαφνα την φέρνει να στροβιλίζεται λοξά και αρρωστημένα πάνω σε έναν σακάτη και γεμάτο σπασίματα άξονα για να συναντήσει μόνο τη θλιβερή σκοτεινιά της παντοτινής και ανίατης νύχτας.
Ο επιθανάτιος ρόγχος ακούγεται σε όλον τον πλανήτη που κοιτάζει με δέος και συγκίνηση τον καθρέφτη της οικουμενικής προπαγάνδας, ψάχνοντας πάνω σε μια υδρόγειο σφαίρα να ανακαλύψει απο που γεννάται αυτό το υπέρλαμπρο φως της μαύρης γης, κάπου εκεί, στην Αφρική.
Εκεί, που λογικά θα έπρεπε να ήταν το νεκροταφείο της πλάσης. Εκεί, όπου όλα τα λύματα των ξεπλυμένων χρημάτων σχηματίζουν θάλασσες, ποτάμια, βάλτους, πεθαμένες λίμνες και άπειρη καυτή έρημο ποτισμένη με ληγμένα φάρμακα απο αυτά που γιατρεύουν τα πειραματόζωα. Τους ζωντανούς που έχουν πεθάνει και τους νεκρούς που χαμογελάνε μπροστά στις κάμερες των μεγάλων οργανισμών ανθρωπιστικής βοήθειας. Ίσως απο αυτά τα γεμάτα μύγες και παράσιτα χείλη να ακούγονται τα τραγούδια που ανοίγουν τις πόρτες του παραδείσου. Η κόλαση είναι μια καθημερινή τυπική διαδικασία διαβίωσης, οπότε δεν υπάρχει κάποιος να αμφισβητήσει το εύρος της δημιουργικής εκμετάλλευσης, ούτε τα στρέμματα των πολυεθνικών εταιριών που έχουν θεμέλια γεμάτα τουμπανιασμένες κοιλίτσες, πρησμένος απο ασιτία και δίψα. Γι’ αυτό και η αρχιτεκτονική τους δομή είναι άψογα στέρεη, καλοφτιαγμένη και πανέτοιμη για πολλές και κάθε είδους προεκτάσεις και αναβαθμίσεις.
Μια δίψα που καμώνεται την ευχαριστημένη όταν τη δροσίζουν οι θεσμοί βοήθειας με λασπόνερα και πόσιμα υγρά απο χώμα, δηλητήρια και νεκρά ή ζωντανά κύτταρα εξωκοσμικών μικροοργανισμών, απο αυτούς που θα μπορούσαν να κάνουν τις ανίατες ασθένειες να προσκυνούν μπροστά στους γεννήτορες τους.
Και μια συνήθεια πείνας και πόνου, μα αυτή δεν καταλαβαίνει, μήτε νοιάζεται για τη διαφορά ανάμεσα στην αποφορά της σηψαιμίας απο το αίμα που αντλείται σε κάθε σοκολατένια καρδούλα και την ικανοποίηση της νομοτελειακής φυσικής ανάγκης για τρόφιμα, ρουχισμό και προτεραιότητες έσχατης και έκτακτης ανάγκης που ζητά πολιτισμένα εδώδιμα και αποικιακά εδέσματα και πρέπει να σπουδάσει στα ιδρύματα του παροξυσμού και του πυρετού, της βρομιάς και της παντελούς έλλειψης των αναγκαίων, για να κατανοήσει την ατομική υγιεινή και τις συνθήκες μιας απλής, κοινής, συνηθισμένης, κοινότοπης και «πληκτικής» ζωής στη Δύση, αναφορικά με την υπερκατανάλωση αγαθών, υλικών και αϋλων , συνθηκών, προνομίων, απαιτήσεων, συνταγματικών δικαιωμάτων και απαιτήσεων απο αυτά που προάγονται και θεωρούνται προαπαιτούμενα σε πολιτισμούς και έθνη της ίδιας ράτσας, της ίδιας φυλής, μα διαφορετικής απόχρωσης στο χρώμα του δέρματος και της ξεπεσμένης απο αδικίες σάρκας.

•Υπάρχουν κάποιες ηδονικές αισθήσεις των οποίων η αοριστία δεν αποκλείει την ένταση … και δε βρίσκεται ακίδα πιο μυτερή από εκείνη του Απείρου.
Μεγάλη ευχαρίστηση για κείνον που βυθίζει το κοίταγμα του μέσα στο απέραντο του ουρανού και της θάλασσας! Μοναξιά,σιωπή,
άφθαστη αγνότητα του γαλάζιου! Ένα μικρό ιστιοφόρο τρεμουλιάζει στον ορίζοντα, και με τη μικρότητα του και την απομόνωσή του μιμείται την αγιάτρευτή μου ύπαρξη, μονότονη μελωδία της φουσκοθαλασσιάς , κι όλα τα πράγματα σκέφτονται για μένα, ή εγώ σκέφτομαι γι’ αυτά < γιατί μέσα στο μεγαλείο του ονείρου , το εγώ γρήγορα χάνεται! … σκέφτονται, λέω, όμως μουσικά και γραφικά , χωρίς λεπτολογίες, χωρίς συλλογισμούς, χωρίς συμπεράσματα.
Κάθε φορά , αυτές οι σκέψεις, που βγαίνουν από μένα ή εφορμούν από τα πράγματα , γίνονται γρήγορα πολύ έντονες. Η ενέργεια μέσα στην ηδονή δημιουργεί μια αδιαθεσία και μια θετική οδύνη•
Ο επίμονος κηπουρός γράφτηκε ως ένα παράδειγμα προς μίμηση αναφορικά με την αγάπη κάθε μορφής, την αφοσίωση, την πίστη, την αλληλεγγύη και μια μοναδικά ανθρωπιστική, διεισδυτική πραγματεία για τις καλά κρυμμένες και συγκρουόμενες -με πολλά θεσμικά και νομικά τερτίπια σε κάθε οργανωμένη κοινωνία - γωνιές της σκοτεινής ανθρώπινης οντότητας.
Μια αγωνιστική πεζογραφία θα χαρακτήριζα το στυλ του συγγραφέα σε αυτό το βιβλίο που κρύβει και ανακαλύπτει παράλληλα όλη την κοσμική σοφία της γεωπολιτικής θεωρίας και συσχετίζει σταθερούς και μεταβλητούς γεωγραφικούς παράγοντες καταλήγοντας σε συμπεράσματα κατανομής της ισχύος στο διεθνή χώρο.
(Η γεωπολιτική αποτελεί μια μέθοδο μελέτης της εξωτερικής πολιτικής ώστε να γίνει κατανοητή, να εξηγηθεί και τελικά να μπορεί να προβλεφθεί η συμπεριφορά των διεθνών πολιτικών δρώντων μέσα από γεωγραφικές μεταβλητές. Αυτές οι μεταβλητές περιλαμβάνουν το κλίμα/περιβάλλον, τον πολιτισμό, την τοπογραφία, τη δημογραφία, τους φυσικούς πόρους και εφαρμοσμένες επιστήμες της περιοχής που εξετάζεται).

Όλα αρχίζουν και τελειώνουν όταν αποκαλύπτεται η
επίδραση της Big Pharma στον Τρίτο Κόσμο, έναντι της Βρετανικής Ύπατης Αρμοστείας στο Ναϊρόμπι.
Ο ανεξέλεγκτος καπιταλισμός και η αγαστή συνεργασία φαρμακοβιομηχανιών με βιομηχανίες όπλων δημιουργούν την απίστευτη κατάσταση εξουσίας μέσω της εξαπάτησης, της πονηριάς, της προδοσίας και τα εγκλήματα κατά της ανθρωπότητας του τρίτου κόσμου που εξυφαίνονται τραγικά και μεταμοντέρνα μπροστά στα μάτια όλων μας σαν μια καταιγίδα κακού, μια θάλασσα απο αίμα και σάρκα αθώων ανθρώπων που τα κερδοσκοπικά σωματεία της παγκόσμιας εξουσίας προσπαθούν να σκεπάσουν υπό την αιγίδα οργανισμών και επιχειρήσεων για βοήθεια και αποκατάσταση, για μόρφωση και πολιτισμό, για συνθήκες διαβίωσης καλύτερες απο των αρουραίων και των σκουληκιών της λάσπης.
Αυτό είναι το κάλυμμα τους. Πίσω απο αυτό κρύβονται πολλά και αφανέρωτα, κρύβεται πολιτική, δύναμη, αισχροκέρδεια και ατομικό συμφέρον. Πίσω απο αυτό δεν υπάρχουν απαντήσεις που θα ικανοποιήσουν μια ενσυναίσθηση στην ανθρώπινη και συμπονετική καρδιά όσων θέλουν πραγματικά να βοηθήσουν ενάντια στις δολοφονίες και τις φρικιαστικές προδοσίες της τριτοκοσμικής παράγκας.

Η όμορφη και πολύ νεότερη σύζυγος του Βρετανού διπλωμάτη, Τζάστιν, Τέσα δολοφονείται βάναυσα και μυστηριωδώς, κάπου, σε κάποιες ερημικές αποξηραμένες λίμνες στην Κένυα, με μοναδικούς μάρτυρες τους σιωπηλούς κροκόδειλους.
Μαζί της ήταν
και ο κατ’ευφημισμόν μαύρος εραστής της.
Ένας γιατρός με πίστη και θέληση που εργάζεται εθελοντικά και απαράμιλλα μόνος ενάντια στον θάνατο αλλά και μέσω κάποιου οργανισμού βοήθειας. Ο γιατρός εξαφανίζεται μυστηριωδώς, δεν υπάρχει πουθενά.

Δυσαρεστημένος και βαθιά ταπεινωμένος απο τις αναμνήσεις για την ακτιβιστική δράση της νεκρής πια συζύγου του, ο επίμονος κηπουρός ακούει μέσα στους κήπους της ψυχής τους τις κραυγές για φάρμακα και τρόφιμα στην Αφρική που ψιθύριζε παντού η Τέσα, χωρίς φόβο και με πολύ πάθος.
Από τη γρήγορη και βρόμικη έρευνα που διενήργησαν τόσο οι τοπικές αρχές όσο και μια ανησυχητική ταλαιπωρία και δυσανασχέτηση που εξέπεμπαν υποδυόμενοι τους θλιμμένους απο το δυστύχημα οι συναδέλφοι διπλωμάτες, ο Justin αποφασίζει να πάρει τα πράγματα στα χέρια του, ξεκινώντας ένα μοιραίο ταξίδι ανακάλυψης και ταυτόχρονα θέτοντας πολλούς άλλους τροχούς εν ενεργεία.
Φυσικά, όλα αυτά είναι απλώς η αρχή του μίτου στο κουβάρι της τιμωρίας των γεγονότων, των χαρακτήρων και των τόπων που περιστρέφονται σε μια φυγοκεντρική δύναμη, σε αυτήν την υπέροχη εξέταση της κεντρομόλου κατηφορικής πλευράς της ανθρώπινης φύσης και των περιπλοκών της μπροστά στην συνωμοσία και το κέρδος με κάθε τίμημα.

Η Τέσα θα μπορούσε να ήταν λιγότερο αφελής και παρορμητικά ταυτισμένη με την κατάντια της αφρικανικής ζωής, αφού ως δικηγόρος θα μπορούσε να δράσει πιο συνετά και ίσως περισσότερο αποδοτικά απο ότι μπόρεσε ως δολοφονημένη.
Ο επίμονος διπλωμάτης και εμμονικός κηπουρός δεν μπόρεσε να αξιοποιήσει στο έπακρο της κατασκοπικές του προοπτικές και δυνάμεις αναφορικά με την δολοφονία της αγαπημένης του. Είναι άοσμος και άχρωμος, ποτέ δεν ξύπνησε μέσα του ο ηγετικός χαρακτήρας, με αποτέλεσμα πολλές φορές να φαντάζει αξιολύπητος παρά ηρωικός.

Καλή ανάγνωση.
Πολλούς ��αι σεμνούς ασπασμούς.
Profile Image for Quirkyreader.
1,540 reviews43 followers
April 1, 2018
So far, out of all the LeCarre books that I have read at this point, this has been one of my favourites.

It was a very heart wrenching story that featured a journey. And that journey was a man discovering how much his late wife truly loved him. And the work she was partaking in that she kept hidden from him. Going through this journey he loved her even more.

It was also a novel of intrigue and espionage based around the pharma industry in Africa.

Try and find a copy of this incredible story.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
1,018 reviews1,184 followers
March 8, 2021
"As my journey through the pharmaceutical jungle progressed, I came to realize that, by comparison with the reality, my story was as tame as a holiday postcard." - John Le Carré, in the afterword.

Tessa Quayle was a diplomat’s wife on a social justice mission, who struggled to be taken seriously by the proper authorities. She was a slight annoyance to her husband’s colleagues at the High Commission in Nairobi… until she is found, murdered by Lake Turkana, her driver decapitated and her confidant (and supposed lover) missing. Justin Quayle might have seemed like a placid man and a bit of a cold fish, but he is anything but: he will stop at nothing to find out who killed his wife and why, and in the process, will uncover a far-reaching conspiracy that he could not have even imagined.

This is not a simple political thriller. There is so much more going on here than I was expecting, despite vague memories of the movie, seen ages ago. Le Carré created something incredible with the story of Justin and Tessa: two magnificently complicated and layered characters whose barely lived love story is the fire that drives both of them – albeit in different directions, tragically.

Obviously, the anti-corporate anger is palpable pretty much from page one until the last sentence, but Le Carré is not interested in preaching to his readers: he simply paints a dark portrait of what can happen when profit outweighs human lives in the eyes of a powerful few, and how governments get sucked into the traps laid for them by Big Pharma. The fact that he somehow managed to weave an amazing love story through this angry rant at corruption and inhuman business practices kind of blows my mind.

I was also blown away by the prose: I have seen a few adaptations of Le Carré’s work on television, so I knew the man could write a twisty plot like nobody’s business, but I had not expected his prose to be so beautiful, his descriptions so vivid that I could see, smell and feel what his characters were going through at every turn of page. Le Carré knew that there is no such thing as 100% evil and 100% good, that everyone has some shady stuff, and he writes characters that you love when they are good, and sympathize and squirm for when they are bad – because they are human, flawed and don’t know any better.

There is probably an element of fantasy-fulfillment on Le Carré’s part: the early relationship between Justin and Tessa screams midlife crisis, and other male characters sexualize her a lot, which can get a little weird. But once we get passed how hot she is, the profound nature of her relationship with her husband develops, and it is so much more than meets the eye. One of the pleasures of this story is seeing this love story unfolds through Justin's recollection, but also through the things he finds out about how far Tessa went to protect him, how much she was willing to sacrifice to keep him safe.

This was my first book by John Le Carré, and it won't be the last. It was much more than the spy thriller I was expecting, and this genre-blurring made me very happy, even if the story is an angry, heart-wrenching tale of injustice and corporate madness. It might have been the best way to tell such a story.
September 21, 2021
I read the book, watched the film and then read the book again. I just loved it as a book and as a film. This is a story of one man's fight to uncover the truth. It will tip you into a range of emotions so beware.

Tessa Quayle, is a clever, talented and beautiful young social activist who is married to Justin (you can now picture him - he is Ralph Fiennes). When his wife is found brutally murdered in Nairobi Ralph (sorry Justin) sets out to uncover the truth. He does not accept the view that his beautiful wife was “careless”. But no-one is telling him what really happened.

Justin begins to uncover a conspiracy of lies that is more frightening and deadly than anything he could have imagined. Coming too close to the truth will put his own life in danger.

A great page turner, fantastic plot, atmospheric, and brilliantly written, by a timeless and gifted author.
Profile Image for Left Coast Justin.
418 reviews89 followers
February 20, 2021
(Buddy read with Nataliya)

The paradox of this book, which mostly concerns death, is that the author brought a large number of characters vividly to life in order to tell it. The characters of Tessa, Justin, Sandy, Gloria, Ghita, Lara, Sir Kenny and even minor characters who occupy but a few pages (Ham, the pilot McKenzie, etc) are clearly etched as separate, distinct entities that I will have a very hard time forgetting. One character is presented only as a voice over a 2-way radio, but the goodness that radiates from this man in a simple, factual exchange is impressive.

The story of a lone hero fighting societal corruption encompasses everything from the New Testament to Patrick Swayze's Roadhouse*, but rarely will you find a version this affecting. When I first read it about fifteen years ago, I was struck by the book's anger -- never an emotion in short supply in Le Carre's books, but rarely brought so clearly into the foreground. On a second reading, the anger is there, but as a cork bobbing on sea of sadness. Since I already knew the story, I had the chance on this reading to focus on the mechanics of how Le Carre wrote, and as with any encounter with masters of their craft, it was a deeply humbling experience.

Justin Quayle loves his wife Tessa, and she loves him, and so confident is this love, so unassailable, that they completely ignore societal conventions designed to publicize it. They have each other, and just don't care what anybody else thinks. This is in refreshing contrast to what most of the entertainment world thinks of as ideal love, which requires that Partner A and Partner B somehow end up cementing their relationship in front of a crowd of cheering well-wishers or, even better, random strangers.

What God hath put together, let no man rend asunder -- until some men did, leaving Justin profoundly alone with his grief. And here we witness the transformation of a man of peace and contentment into one with single-minded purpose, embarking on a journey to do honor to his wife.

Honor, in this context, is the highest of accolades. He seeks not revenge or that weak word 'closure', but completion. Completion of the work she set out to do, because it was important to her, and that's what husbands do. Throughout, a challenge is posed to the reader: are you one of them, or one of us? For although this commitment falls to Justin, he has meaningful allies in his quest who, like him, are prepared to suffer some bruising in order to complete Tessa's mission.

The book ends, and then ends again, in a brilliantly-written coda that is truly arresting in its skill. Oh you that have love in your life, read this book and remain unaffected. I dare you.


*The most unintentionally hilarious movie I've ever seen, I'll wager
Profile Image for Eric_W.
1,924 reviews369 followers
March 12, 2009
One of the reviewers on Amazon complained that this book had little to do with gardening. Good grief!

I think Le Carre has made the transition from Cold War spy novels to contemporary issue thrillers quite handsomely. In this book, he really goes after the pharmaceutical companies, accusing them not only of unethical practices using Africans as guinea pigs, but also suggests they would kill anyone whom might deign to challenge their unholy hegemony.

It's also truly a great love story. The relationship of trust and reliance that emerges gradually through the course of the novel between Tessa and Justin is really wonderful. Unusual perhaps; striking, nevertheless.

This is a tale of grand corruption on an international scale but also a celebration (albeit tragic) of the idealistic individual. But I warn you, it's a dark tale.
Profile Image for Metodi Markov.
1,343 reviews318 followers
September 8, 2023
Какво знаете за наистина огромния континент Африка и как живеят хората там? Вероятно почти нищо, точно както и аз.

В този роман избиват толкова много проблеми и мизерии, че е непонятно как въобще се справят там...

Конниците на Апокалпсиса са безброй - глад, жажда, болести, войни, корупция, престъпност, липса на образование, религиозни и всякакви други суеверия, беззаконие и още, и още...

Льо Каре само леко побутва с пръчка кошера на африканските стършели и рояците веднага се разлетяват напосоки, отровни и не щадящи жертвите си. Пише добре и увлекателно, въпреки предвидимата си фабула книгата е интересна и си заслужава да бъде прочетена. Излязла е преди 21 години и съм сигурен, че нищо в Кения не е мръднало ни на йота напред...

Дори скапаната стаия на български в Уикито за този континент е пълна с неверни, неточни и измислени сведения. А като се поразаровиш малко, се вижда че милардите наляти като помощи само влошават положението в повечето страни и нямат никакъв смисъл, освен приспиването на съвестта на хората от богатите и "нормални" страни.

Безкраен кошмар някакъв...
Profile Image for Barbara K..
429 reviews86 followers
April 13, 2021
My previous reading of le Carré has been limited to his political thrillers. This book is in some regards quite different, although I'd have to say that overall it does carry the same sensibility.

The enemy in this book is Big Pharma, and Africa is the land under attack. A multi-national is ruthlessly testing an anti-tuberculosis drug with lethal side-effects, especially for pregnant women, on impoverished native populations. Their objective is to work out the kinks quickly without bothering with proper clinical trials, before presenting it for sale in well-paying Western markets.

Note: The Constant Gardener was written in 2001, well before so much of the US was victimized by the opioid crisis unleashed by real world Big Pharma. The setting was different, but the greed and the human costs were uncannily similar, and the comparison was continuously on the edges of my mind as I read.

le Carré exposes these exploitative crimes by means of a love story set within the British embassy community in Nairobi. Tessa is the decades-younger wife of Justin Quayle, a career diplomat who has studiously created a pleasant but somewhat uninvolved life where his greatest passion is cultivating plants, not relationships. That changes once they meet, and the momentum of the book stems from Justin's attempts at becoming reconciled to his failure to commit fully to his love for Tessa, and to her zeal for confronting injustice.

Although his interior life was upended by his unanticipated love for her, externally Justin he attempted to maintain the same public face - until she was murdered while on a humanitarian mission. His determination to unearth the truth about what she was investigating and the circumstances of her death lead him to actions that are completely inconsistent with his prior understanding of himself.

But what of Tessa? Well, she's certainly more fully developed as a character than most women in le Carré novels. Coming from a background of extreme privilege she chooses to ignore her wealth and beauty unless they are used in the service of obtaining justice for the underserved. She defiantly pursues her own agendas rather than meeting the typical expectations of a spouse of an embassy official. This is what we see of her from the outside, but we are not privileged to an interior view. We learn much more of Justin than of her.

Which brings me to an element of the book that is, in a way, the most different from le Carré's spy novels. There is no moral ambiguity to the characters or the causes. Tessa is a paragon of virtue, as is Justin following her death. There are no real redeeming qualities to Big Pharma, and while some of its representatives may regret their involvement (Lara wholeheartedly and Lorbeer in a conflicted way), all are driven by greed.

By contrast, the cold war thrillers were haunted by a sense of whether the things that Smiley (and others) did in pursuit of their cause justified the outcomes. There is no question that this is a very different story and perhaps that equivocal quality would be inappropriate, but I will confess to becoming a bit discouraged with the unrelenting rightness of Tessa's/Justin's cause.

Or maybe that's just a form of compassion fatigue by the time I'd finished the book. There was so much to be outraged about, such a sharp demonstration of the weaknesses of the human condition, of "man's inhumanity to man" on so many levels. Of how easy it is to look the other way when its inconvenient.

As always, le Carré has much to share, and does it with his incomparable prose.
Profile Image for S.P. Aruna.
Author 3 books72 followers
June 27, 2019
A story of tragedy and intrigue that unfolds from the first page to the last, The Constant Gardener is an incredible story of love and loyalty. Justin Quayle is a quiet, reserved man, necessarily conservative in his behavior as befits a British diplomat, while his wife Tessa can barely restrain her zeal for reforming a corrupt system where the victims are poor women and children.
Justin had always stayed out of the activist part of Tessa's life. And she had always protected him and his diplomatic career from it. This all changes when Tessa is murdered, and Justin is overwhelmed by a tragic loss. He feels the necessity of unraveling the reasons and the people involved in his wife's death, learning things he never knew about her when she was alive, globetrotting as a pseudo-spy. What he uncovers is nothing less than the dark side of global capitalism.
But the love story is merely a vehicle for what Le Carré really wants to express - an impassioned tirade against Big Pharma's unscrupulous scheming involving Third World populations, the soulless lack of ethics of the post-modern capitalist world. For that reason, I found this to be the most fervent (and angry) of any Le Carré novels I've read. In my version of the book, this is confirmed by a postscript of the author ranting about this issue. Clearly, the work was very personal.
A heavy duty read, well worth the effort.
Profile Image for Zanna.
676 reviews967 followers
July 25, 2014
I made rapid progress through this long book thanks to an intriguing plot, empathy with the protagonists, a serious socio-political backdrop and plenty of interesting peripheral characters.

Le Carre has been very careful to make Tessa and her husband Justin humble, passionate and self-effacing, since the role of White Saviour in Africa is, to say the least, problematic. Tessa is almost beyond reproach, and the book was overly morally comfortable for me with its predictably ignorant, self-interested colonial officials, dubiously spiritual white aid workers, insidiously amoral big pharma, naive-but-intelligent-and-incorruptible mixed-race admin staff, prophetic African wise women and so on, and even the pessimistic conclusion had me nodding sagely along, emotionally affected but unperturbed in my beliefs...

As critique perhaps this is unfair - there is enough discomfort in this sad book to make it a good and serious read, and doubtless its targets are broadly the right ones. But the message I took, and felt dissatisfied with, was that the well-meaning white person (that scourge of the Earth that is every irresponsible and ignorant one of us) is off the hook, and in any case helpless, in the face of corporate injustice in Africa.
Profile Image for SAM.
253 reviews5 followers
April 26, 2019
Like most John Le Carre film adaptions I’ve seen, the Constant Gardener is a good one. In fact i don’t believe I’ve experienced a bad Ralph Fiennes or Rachel Weisz film so congrats on the casting choices.

The plot isn’t the usual cold war/international spy story like his novels of the past. The Constant Gardener is set in Kenya and follows the fall out of the murder of Tessa Quayle, the activist wife of British Diplomat, Justin Quayle. What initially appears to be a thoughtless murder soon turns into a conspiracy involving the shady dealings of a Big Pharma Corporation and corrupt Government officials. The story is told lineally but there are flash backs of Tessa before she was killed.

The research effort for this book was clearly extensive and comes through brilliantly in the writing. I’d never considered Kenya or corrupt pharmaceutical deals before but this was an eye opener and in his afterword John Le Carre describes the events in the book as childs play compared to some of the findings of his research. I will definitely be exploring this subject further.

The main focus is Justin’s investigation into Tessa’s death as he isn’t willing to accept the official government version. He acquaints himself with Tessa’s research and contacts and digs up some skulduggery that reaches beyond Kenya and England. For the majority the story is a page turner as the more Justin uncovers the more intriguing it becomes and bizarrely enough it was only toward the end when it starts to become clear what really happened that i began to lose interest. The ending is a mix of uncovering the truth and some random ‘waffle’, which he could have left out. I also didn’t get enough emotional loss out of Justin. When he’s talking about his grief to other characters i didn’t really believe him. Other than these two minor gripes it’s a good book and i’ll certainly be reading his other non-cold war novels.

"I’m an Oswald man, Justin. Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F Kennedy. Nobody helped him do it. There comes a moment after all the fantasising when we’re reduced to accepting the obvious…"
Profile Image for Ivana Books Are Magic.
523 reviews201 followers
April 27, 2019
Despite the fact that the plot held little or no surprises for me, I still enjoyed The Constant Gardener immensely. I found it an interesting read, mostly on the strength of its writing and character portrayal. Quite early on, I realized that I can predict pretty much everything, the themes as well as the events that were to take place, but as it happens, it didn't bother me that much. I didn't predict the ending precisely, but I imagined something along the lines of it. A fitting ending for this one, I'd say.

I found it really refreshing the way this novel openly criticizes the was corrupt Western governments collaborate with the corrupt African governments. It is as they say, crime has no nationality. There is a good deal of social satire in this one. John le Caree espouses the false humanitarians for what they are, for example the way Western countries get rid of their old medicines (medical waste is very expensive to get rid of) by sending it to developing countries. I have no issues believing that since the West was only happy to dump their old medical supplies in ex- Yugoslavia when it fell apart in the nineties. If they do that in Europe, on the smallest of pretenses, imagine what they do in Africa where there is constant welfare and not everyone can read the expiry date. This novel offers a bit of a pessimistic view of mankind, but that doesn't make it any less an objective one.

The novel opens with a murder of Tessa, a young and beautiful wife of a Justin, a British diplomat with a good heart, a man mostly busy composing humanitarian committee reports nobody reads. His late wife was a lot more active it seems. Tessa openly criticized any trace of corruption she saw both in Kenya's and her own government. Who is to blame for her death? Was it an accident of sorts? One of Africa's unsurprising murders? Or was it ordered by enemies in high places?

It's not most eventful or dynamic of spy novels, a good portion of it being an examination of characters. It's more psychological but personally I don't mind that.The portrayal of characters was done extremely well. The dialogues are masterfully written. John writes not only with words that characters says, but with the pauses between their words as well. You get an impression he studied Chekhov. That being said, this novel could have been shorter. It was also overwritten. Plus, there were some inconsistencies. I find it hard to believe that the protagonist (Justin) doesn't know how to use a laptop. It is not like he is in his nineties. Anyhow, some small illogical things a a bit of overwriting aside, it really is a good read.
Profile Image for Carmel Hanes.
Author 1 book136 followers
June 10, 2021
I've not read this author before, but was enticed to listen to this one based on a GR friend enjoying it, even though she and I don't typically read "thrillers". She was right in her description of this as not so much a thriller as a complex shell game intrigue. It meanders more than gallops, but that suited my mood just fine.

A story that gives you interesting characters, a well-written plot, and food for thought as a murder is unwrapped within the smarmy soup of politics, pharmaceutical greed, and rich countries preying upon those less fortunate. As I listened, I couldn't help but think of today's world pandemic; the rush to vaccinate, the unknown outcomes yet to be seen, the uneven distributions between countries, and the enormous lack of trust casting a pall over it all.

A decent listen, if a bit long.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,925 reviews386 followers
June 19, 2018
***2018 Summer of Spies***

So its summer, finally and at last, here in the Great White North. It’s time for some summer fun reading about espionage! This is my first venture into Le Carré’s work and I enjoyed it.

I had expected a rather light & frothy thriller and instead I got a serious examination of big pharma—its use of the unfortunate as test subjects and its desire to put profit well ahead of human kindness. Also explored is the nature of colonialism in Kenya, reminding me a bit of The Poisonwood Bible. Heavy subjects for a popular novel!

I also got a reminder on the nature of marriage—those of us on the outside of a marriage really have no idea what’s happening on the inside. On the outside, Sandy and Gloria Woodrow look like the stable, steady couple and Justin and Tessa Quayle look like a precarious, unmatched union. The book begins from Sandy Woodrow’s point of view and quickly disabuses the reader of the notion that his marriage is solid. Woodrow’s constant search for sex outside his marriage was tiresome and it was a relief when I reached the point where Le Carré switched to Justin’s POV. There we discover that, far from being unstable, Justin and Tessa trusted and loved each other a great deal.

Thereafter followed the labyrinthine machinations that I had been expecting. Who knows what, who is hiding something, what can be done about it all? I can definitely see why The Guardian lists it as one of their 1000 recommended books.
Profile Image for Krista.
415 reviews
October 16, 2007
What a tedious read!! This book was about 300 pages too long. The topic should have been interesting but LeCarre found a way to make it boring. I also watched the movie in the hopes that it would improve my opinion of the book. Didn't work.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books1,357 followers
April 27, 2017
This is one of LeCarre's best novels--especially impressive because he's out of his usual Cold War milieu. But the narrative drive, the simmering anti-corporate anger, are all there. Also, the opening paragraph is a marvel: precise, engaging, suspenseful, and a quick character sketch, all in one.
4 reviews
January 14, 2009
In the 60’s I distinctly remember reading two of the authors earlier books, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and the Looking Glass War. With no pun intended I read them in a small town in Germany, a town located not too far distant from where the fictitious events of the stories took place. They were really good books.

Returning to him some 40 years later proved, for me, something of a disappointment. There is only a fleeting reference to gardening so horticulturist need not get their hopes up but the subject matter of the book is interesting enough and although it is a work of fiction I am sure, as the book points out, that there is indeed a dark underside to the multi national pharmaceutical industry. One that might be uncomfortable for us, the consumers, to know about. However if it was his intention to enlighten us then a one hour TV documentary would have done the job better as at 508 pages it’s about 100 too long. I skipped 20 of the last 25 and I don’t believe I missed out on much.

I didn’t find the characters too believable, far too many of them anyway, and the way we are asked to believe that a husband, a high ranking diplomat, had no idea that his wife was rampaging through Kenya righting wrongs on behalf of us all, without him having any knowledge of her activities is quite absurd.

Might be one of those rare occasions when the film is better than the book.
3 reviews1 follower
January 25, 2009
My first impression of the book was not good. The beginning was slow, and seemed like something my Dad might read; something mundane and unoriginal with cheap thrills. I kept on though, and soon found myself completely enthralled. I could not have been more wrong. Not only does The Constant Gardener deliver clever suspense and thrills, but it also has a strong emotional pull. The strongest part of the book is probably its intelligent and complex plot which involves major pharmaceutical companies. I was both compelled and horrified by what I learned about pharmaceutical companies. Furthermore, the book holds a lot of cultural analysis, which I found to be both true and insightful.

Le Carre has an incredible strength for details which not only allows the plot to soar, but also gives the reader incredibly scenery and characterization. This strength for details is also what allows him to give such strong and interesting cultural analysis, and make it seem like you can actually see all of the interactions taking place. I couldn't recommend this book more.
Profile Image for Daren.
1,328 reviews4,397 followers
May 30, 2020
This was a good book - it exceeded my expectations, and ended up a worthy 4 stars. My only criticism is that it felt a little dragged out in the last 150 pages, when most of the plot had already rolled out.

There are many reviews which outline (and probably spoil) the plot, so I don't consider it necessary here, but only to mention amoral 'big pharma' and corporate greed, Kenya being used as a testing ground for new drugs and the murder of those pushing back, government corruption & political kickbacks.

Overall the plot doesn't have too many twists and turns - it has enough in it (until the last 150 pages, as noted above) to hold interest. The characters are interesting and deeply described, even the peripheral characters are given enough depth to fill them out. The settings came across as legitimate - Kenya particularly with its Foreign Office diplomats and the more remote aid hospitals nearer Kenyan villages.

Well worth a read if non-military espionage, the West taking advantage of Africa's need, and corporate corruption tickle your fancy.
Profile Image for Leslie.
823 reviews67 followers
February 18, 2011
One of my favourite Le Carre novels, right up there with The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and the Smiley books. It works on every level: as a thriller, as suspense fiction, as character study, as social and economic critique. Truly moving and compelling.
Profile Image for Sheila.
79 reviews
September 15, 2012
My first Le Carre, so I was expecting to be thrilled, something cat-and-mouse type of story. After all, someone killed Justin Quayle's wife while she's on a perfectly justifiable, if not very dangerous mission. And it was not a quick death like an assassination----she was stripped naked, possibly raped, had bruises all over her body, and her throat was slashed.

Meaning: It's the kind of injustice that forces Justin to go on a global hunt for the answers.

But the ending is just too sad for me. Too pessimistic. It's Thomas Hardy without a touch of beauty of realism.

What was the point of having Justin suffer the same bruises along the way if someone else will have to fight for him too in the end?

But...I must remember myself. I haven't written 18 books like John Le Carre on the year he published The Constant Gardener. There are some good things about the novel.

One of them is Justin himself, who talks to the ghost of his wife and summons her from memory while on his deceitful journey. It reveals the relationship they had, her secrecy, his adoration, their ordinary, but now tender moments.

Other characters are interesting in that they are not there to serve as background. They actually do something to move the story.

As for Africa itself as the location, Le Carre satisfies us with lots of usual imagery from the loyal servants, the bereaved and disadvantaged youth, to the suffering African women.

But the book is not about Africa. It's about Justin, the wronged man and husband, and a reluctant spy.

Is it a story of bravery and passion as he becomes determined to walk in the way that his wife once walked? Yes.

Is it a story on how to fight corrupt multinational corporations? No. Definitely not.

There's this part where Justin meets Tessa's contact in Hippo (Hippocrates) and he laughs when he sees her carrying her toddler on her bike---he wasn't expecting to be an Uncle for the afternoon. I like Justin laughing even if he's grieving. He's a likable character, which makes me sad more.

Le Carre has been likened to Charles Dickens, which makes him a writer to read if only to draw comparisons and distinctions.

Meaning: He owns the space for 3 to 5 more books on my shelf.

Book Rave
I know the film. Haven't watched it. But I saw Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and I liked the psychological drama, which from experience, is better appreciated when digested in its written form. But what finally persuaded me to grab a copy of this book, ten years after it was published, is the word it used in its back cover: ennobled . I haven't read that word before, not in the few John Grisham and Jeffery Deaver mystery thrillers I've consumed. It excites the lexophile in me. A man ennobled by his wife's tragic murder...I've read that a good writer has this skill of choosing one word instead of another. John Le Carre chose the word ennobled. He chose it well.
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,423 reviews215 followers
September 5, 2020
The Constant Gardener was such a good book! Without knowing much about it, I was very intrigued about this thriller. In it, we will meet Tessa and Justin. She was a humanitarian and he was a British diplomat. They also used to be married until her untimely death.

I did like getting to meet both of them. Especially Tessa because we get to know who she was through the flashbacks. She was born into a wealthy family but never truly wanted to flaunt her wealth. She really just wanted to fight for justice and humanity. So Tessa was basically an angel and I wanted to know why she was murdered.

Honestly, so many things happened in this book that shocked me. One, the drug testing on the African people there. It was completely wrong and I just hated how a death was easily forgotten. Like they weren't even a person anymore. They were less than dirt.

After her death, Justin continues her journey to justice. It was pretty interesting to see him on this adventure. Especially when he found out more information about his wife. Each page and chapter just sucked me in even more. The only thing I would've changed is the ending.. but that's just me.
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