Summary and book reviews of The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre

The Constant Gardener

By John Le Carre

The Constant Gardener
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  • Hardcover: Dec 2000,
    496 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2001,
    576 pages.

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Book Summary

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 older husband, Justin, a career diplomat at the British High Commission in Nairobi, sets out on a personal odyssey in pursuit of the killers and their motive. What he might know and what he ultimately learns make him suspect among his own colleagues and a target for the profiteers who killed his wife.

A master chronicler of the deceptions and betrayals of ordinary people caught in political conflict, le Carré portrays, in The Constant Gardener, the dark side of unbridled capitalism. His eighteenth novel is also the profoundly moving story of a man whom tragedy elevates. Justin Quayle, amateur gardener and ineffectual bureaucrat, seemingly oblivious to his wife's cause, discovers his own resources and the extraordinary courage of the woman he barely had time to love.

The Constant Gardener is a magnificent exploration of the new world order by one of the most compelling and elegant storytellers of our time.

From Chapter One

The news hit the British High Commission in Nairobi at nine-thirty on a Monday morning. Sandy Woodrow took it like a bullet, jaw rigid, chest out, smack through his divided English heart. He was standing. That much he afterwards remembered. He was standing and the internal phone was piping. He was reaching for something, he heard the piping so he checked himself in order to stretch down and fish the receiver off the desk and say, "Woodrow." Or maybe, "Woodrow here." And he certainly barked his name a bit, he had that memory for sure, of his voice sounding like someone else's, and sounding stroppy: "Woodrow here," his own perfectly decent name, but without the softening of his nickname Sandy, and snapped out as if he hated it, because the High Commissioner's usual prayer meeting was slated to start in thirty minutes prompt, with Woodrow, as Head of Chancery, playing in-house moderator to a bunch of special-interest prima donnas, each of whom wanted sole ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
BusinessWeek - Patrick Smith

John le Carré's The Constant Gardener, ranks with The Russia House as the best he has produced since hitting his peak. If this new book is craft rather than art, it is craft of the very highest caliber. It is no mean feat to entertain while also making a reader think. Yet le Carré pulls this off admirably, weaving together several themes—corporate power, underdevelopment, globalization—that will resonate with a wide audience.

BusinessWeek - Patrick Smith

John le Carré's The Constant Gardener, ranks with The Russia House as the best he has produced since hitting his peak. If this new book is craft rather than art, it is craft of the very highest caliber. It is no mean feat to entertain while also making a reader think. Yet le Carré pulls this off admirably, weaving together several themes—corporate power, underdevelopment, globalization—that will resonate with a wide audience.

Publisher's Weekly

Admirers of the author who may have found some of the moral ambiguities and over elaborate set pieces of his last two books less than top-drawer le Carré's will welcome a return to his best form.

Library Journal

le Carré's ability to draw characters in depth, coupled with his unparalleled plotting and the authority with which he describes settings as various as Nairobi, Elba, Switzerland, and Canada, makes this a propulsive narrative and a lesson in the realities of a world run not by governments but by corporations. Highly recommended.

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