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The Constant Gardener: A Novel
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The Constant Gardener: A Novel

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  11,289 ratings  ·  753 reviews
Frightening, heartbreaking, and exquisitely calibrated, John le Carré's new novel opens with the gruesome murder of the young and beautiful Tessa Quayle near northern Kenya's Lake Turkana, the birthplace of mankind. Her putative African lover and traveling companion, a doctor with one of the aid agencies, has vanished from the scene of the crime. Tessa's much olde...more
ebook, 496 pages
Published August 1st 2005 by Scribner (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Zanna
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-interest...more
Eric_W
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 relatio...more
Bmbs
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 b...more
Robert Farwell
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 medi...more
Sheila
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. To...more
Kaitlin Turner
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...more
Maura
I think this is the only time in my life I've actually liked the movie better than the book, but perhaps my expectations were too high (I hadn't read or heard of LeCarré before this). Basically I'd thought that since it was about pharmaceutical company conspiracies to test drugs on poor Africans and kill people who get in their way, I'd love it... I was wrong, but maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised.

I felt Le Carré didn't address the pharmaceutical issue with enough depth, and focused too m...more
Carrie
This was a fun book. I read it after I had already seen the movie, and I still found it suspenseful enough that I had to pull it from being my commuting book, and spend an hour on my couch Sunday morning frantically finishing it. Since I already knew what happened, I have to give much credit to Le Carré's ability to spin a plot. It is also very well written, particularly for a popular, mass-market thriller (I’m looking at you, Da Vinci Code). It was a nice post-Cold War twist on a spy story, and...more
Fran
I had never read anything by John Le Carre before. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. He is a masterful writer who develops interesting characters and describes scenes with poetic intensity. This is the sort of book I could see myself rereading in years to come. There is so much in it. Clearly the author is so much more than a spy novelist.
Krista
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.
Erin
People raved about this novel, but I thought it was boring and predictable, and had too much dialogue. Woman is murdered in Kenya for investigating whether drug companies are using people as guinea pigs. Her husband solves the mystery.
Arun Divakar
Human tragedy as an occurrence is very much similar to clay; it can either drive humans to the vilest acts of insanity or the most humane of actions. Natural disasters, accidents and countless other instances bear witness to such acts each day & everyday across the world. Tragedy in individual life of a fictional character on the other hand gives rise to literary gems (a la Shakespeare & the gang) or movies (read tear jerker/pay back movies). The backdrop of John Le Carre’s The Constant...more
Francisco Márquez
It took me an eternity to finish this book because of a universal conspiracy to keep me on my toes and away from it. Luckily, after a series of difficult tribulations I got to finishing it, and thank God I did. This was my first Le Carré book and definitely not my last.

Possibly one of modern literature's most enthralling narrators of its time, Le Carré creates a carefully calibrated and well-researched story in the politically relevant novel. His deliberate choices as a storyteller are admirabl...more
Elli
The Constant Gardner by John le Carre. I loved it; I don't know that I've enjoyed a book more (although I've liked some as much). I liked Smiley and the other characters, well, John le Carre's books; I'm so glad I got to read this one. It focuses on the drug industry and how some things contribute to problems, rather than help them. It also focuses on the diplomatic life in an African country right before the colonial regime changed into sort of a more local one. There are alot of implications....more
Maciek
I've been hearing great things about John Le Carre, so I picked up The Constant Gardener. I knew nothing about the book, except that it was made into a movie which got good reviews.

I can't say I was floored. The plot is pretty transparent to everyone but the protagonist, who would know immediately what's going on if he'd read the back cover blurb. Instead of being a thriller full of unexpected twists and turns, the reader has to wait for the protagonist to catch up. When the plot drags behind th...more
Kendra
Jan 29, 2012 Kendra rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of Crime Fiction
Recommended to Kendra by: verona
Shelves: crime-fiction
The genius of The Constant Gardener is that, for a week, I lived in John Le Carré's head. I probably should have tried to finish the book more quickly, because Le Carré's head isn't always a comfortable place to be. When I dreamed at night, all of the characters were named Tessa and Justin, which just goes to show you how much this story got under my skin. I can't fault the book, or Le Carré, in the least. The Constant Gardener is beautifully written, its pacing excellent, its characters superb...more
Etienne Mahieux
J'ai vu le film. Vous avez vu le film (sinon, voyez-le, il est bien). Vous savez donc que ce jardinier est un diplomate de second rang à la mission anglaise de Nairobi (Kenya) dont la femme, bénévole humanitaire jusqu'à l'activisme, est retrouvée massacrée loin de la capitale. Apparemment, Justin Quayle s'en tient à une exquise réserve britannique et ses émotions ne semblent pas en mesure de submerger sa politesse. En fait il est fou de douleur et s'apprête à disparaître, pour reprendre le flamb...more
Sandra Newman
I seem to be doomed to read all of le Carré's books before I die, in the same way some people are apparently doomed to see all of Woody Allen's films, even though they haven't liked any of them since Sleeper.

Anyway, this isn't exactly the Broadway Danny Rose of le Carré novels, but it's not his best. The main flaw in the book, as far as I'm concerned, is that the dastardly plot, by which all the characters are horrified, actually seemed pretty tame, if you paused to reflect on it. So...

SPOILER...more
Laura
A movie was made based on this book: The Constant Gardener (2005), directed by Fernando Meirelles, with Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Hubert Koundé.

From IMDb:
A widower is determined to get to the bottom of a potentially explosive secret involving his wife's murder, big business, and corporate corruption.




Perhaps the movie is better than the book.
Nick Raines
Aug 10, 2014 Nick Raines rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Spy/political fans
It begins with bureaucracy centering around the brutal murder of a crusader in Africa. Fro the early part of the book we are with Sandy Woodrow who is a good office drone, but kind of a terrible person. Soon enough though the reader inhabits the shoes of Justin Quayle, husband to the deceased Tessa Quayle. Justin begins to slowly starts to piece together the mystery surrounding the murder of his wife and the disappearance of one of her colleagues who was with her at the time. What follows is a...more
Curmudgeonlybumbly
Woof. Awful. So this is the source material for bad Hollywood movies.
The author claims traits for his characters, instead of showing them to you. The plot is dull. le Carre doesn't play fair with the readers. There's nothing you could have figured out. He just reveals plot points out of nowhere with no foreshadowing.
A giant waste of time.
Geoffrey Fox
John LeCarré here sets in motion a dozen or more morally and psychologically complex characters in many directions at once, leading into three major stories and at least a half a dozen lesser ones. The framing story is about Big Pharma, the enormously wealthy multinational pharmaceutical companies which can cure you or kill you to make a profit, and the people who try to be sure they do mostly good things and curb its corrupt tendencies. The second is an adventure story of a lone man, the "const...more
Megargee
I chose this book for its length; I needed something to sustain me on a four day business trip on which I would be spending a lot of time in airports, airplanes, and hotels. (Think O'Hare in winter). So I shouldn't complain about its length. That said, I felt it was excessive.
The beginning of the book we learn of the murder of Tessa, the idealistic wife of a member of the British embassy in Nairobi, and her driver, as well as the disappearance of her African colleague and rumored lover in a re...more
Prachi Singh
I watched the movie, The Constant Gardener, a couple of weeks ago and was inspired to read this book. I've heard people criticize this book for not being enough of a spy novel, but I personally enjoyed that it focused more on the characters than on the crazy cover-up. I can't really objectively review this novel because I loved the movie and the actors in it so much that this couldn't really be anything but a little disappointing. I will, however, say that the writing style was really interestin...more
liso
This is a story about idealism and making a difference; it’s a story about complacency and strong will; it’s a story about conspiracy and cover ups; it’s a story about loss and grieving; it’s a story about misunderstood love and secrets.

When British diplomat Justin Quayle’s young wife is found murdered with her traveling companion, the British government quickly gets involved to avoid the scandalous press that they are sure will follow. As Justin traces Tessa’s last steps and learns what her re...more
Ashley
Holy cow and for the love of Batman was this a good book. I know that I've been subsisting mostly on YA dystopian romances and sci-fi/fantasy "escapist" stuff for the past nine months or so, so you might not trust my judgement at this point, but you should really believe me when I say that this is a book you should read. You, lover of action adventures and thrillers. You, lover of tense but thorough case studies into corruption and intrigue. You, lover of words. You, lover of intricate explorati...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in October 2002.

One of the major issues that faces our generation, one which receives relatively little publicity and which seems quite intractable, is how large corporations can be controlled by public opinion, particularly their operations in Third World countries desperate for money. Stockholders continue to put short term profits ahead of other concerns - such as humanitarian and environmental ones - and are frequently able to exert considerable pressure...more
AliceinWonderland
- Well written, exploring many important themes of social responsibility, corporate greed, etc...
- Dialogue is brisk and terse where appropriate
- The first 200-300 pages I would say are definitely slow; Le Carre writes well, but not much happens until mid-way into the book
- Characters Justin & Tessa are well-crafted
- The ending is very depressing and I must admit, I was hoping for a smoking gun, or at least a silver lining (perhaps through Tessa's cousin Ham), but NO, nothing. The bad guys w...more
V.r. Christensen
I have heard some say that of all LeCarre's books, this is the weakest. I confess that, while I'm familiar with the names of many of his other books, this is the first of his I've read. I have to say, I really loved it. It is a tender piece of storytelling, subtle in all the right ways that make the imagination work to fill in the rest, resulting in intense and complicated emotion. The story is about the death of Justin Quayle's wife, and his search to find out the truth. On his journey, he take...more
Ryan Sanderson
It would be unfair to call John LeCarre, who still can write vital, compelling books, a mere tradesman like Dean Koontz or John Grisham. The Constant Gardener, one of his more prominent works this last decade, contains both the worst and best of LeCarre's stature as literary spymaster. As per usual, he is out to take down some deserving targets (namely pharmaceutical companies), and within that journey he manages to touch upon a fair number of compelling ideas, unique characters, and some dazzli...more
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John le Carré, the pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell (born 19 October 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England), is an English author of espionage novels. Le Carré has resided in St Buryan, Cornwall, Great Britain, for more than forty years where he owns a mile of cliff close to Land's End.
More about John le Carré...
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“Tessa distinguished absolutely between pain observed and pain shared. Pain observed is journalistic pain. It’s diplomatic pain. It’s television pain, over as soon as you switch off your beastly set. Those who watch suffering and do nothing about it, in her book, were little better than those who inflicted it. They were the bad Samaritans.” 19 likes
“The most peaceble people will do the most terrible things when they're pushed.” 7 likes
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