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The Constant Gardener

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  19,769 ratings  ·  1,242 reviews
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 Jus
Paperback, 496 pages
Published August 26th 2005 by Scribner (first published January 4th 2001)
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  19,769 ratings  ·  1,242 reviews

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Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
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.
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, aere-perennius
“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 lit
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
S.P. Aruna
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thriller-mystery
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 dipl
Apr 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, spy-fiction-etc
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
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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, s
***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
Ivana Books Are Magic
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 thi ...more
Dec 21, 2008 rated it it was ok
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 ho
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
Kaitlin Turner
Jan 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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.
Jul 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
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 f
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa, spy, fiction
For tuberculosis sufferers, Dypraxa was supposed to be the Holy Grail. Pharma giant Karel Vita Hudson (KVH) had so much confidence in it coming out of the gate that they made it widely available in Africa, with disastrous results. Tessa Quayle and her friend Arnold Bluhm MD wage a two-man war against the ravages of the drug.

When Quayle is murdered and Bluhm disappears, things start to happen. Tessa's husband, John Quayle, a Foreign Office functionary, suddenly disappears and, under false ID, pu
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Yeah, this isn't the best le Carre. The beginning of the book was quite engrossing, and then it is like it takes a right turn. The husband's investiagtion is just annoying on some levels. 3 stars because of the beginning.
Friederike Knabe
Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Where does the creator of George Smiley, expert spy master of the cold war, go find a new theme? Le Carre readers must have asked themselves this question. Fortunately, after a couple of attempts in different directions, Le Carre has found a new cause: Pharmaceutical companies and their dealings, in particular in Africa. He tackles a highly sensitive and complex set of issues. As he says himself in the acknowledgements, in comparison to real life, his revelations are as 'tame as a picture postca ...more
Nov 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in what really goes on in the world, Le Carre fans
It is difficult to find fault with this book, so I won't try. I have always enjoyed Le Carre's work, partly because he has connections that enable him to find out about things that are not usually talked about publicly; partly because his writing is sublime.

Mr Le Carre knows how to tell a story and this is one of his best. It builds slowly but surely to its shocking but almost inevitable conclusion and the way it's done keeps you reading with interest to the end. The end itself leave
Arun Divakar
Jan 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Feb 23, 2013 rated it did not like it
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.
Oct 16, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dessertersii
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.
DeAnna Knippling
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
A British official investigates the death of his activist wife.

This was solid but difficult, and, in the end, not as moving as I expected it to be. I didn't care for the characters the way I do le Carre's spies, I think. Also, the structure and plot and information delivery are so necessarily convoluted and heavy that at times it was a slog.

The book ended as it had to end, in my opinion, but I was left wondering whether I had hit the final buildup or if the end of my ebook had cut o
Francisco Márquez
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jan 15, 2009 rated it liked it
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
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
Lisa Mancini
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved everything about this book except the ending. But, I recommend. The film is great too with the excellent cast of Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weitz.
Shaun Bossio
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A goddamned masterpiece.
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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 40 years, where he owns a mile of cliff close to Land's End.

See also: John le Carré - Wikipedia
“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.” 30 likes
“The most peaceble people will do the most terrible things when they're pushed.” 20 likes
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