The Constant Gardener Author:John le Carre 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 ... more »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. 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.« less
It is hard not to see how real this story can be if an ordinary person is placed in this circumstance. I think often of my missionary friends who travel the globe and try not to allow the politics of the host country interfer with their mission to share God with the world. How this book reminds me of that struggle from the perspective of the one who decides to seek truth rather than turn a blind eye to it. Can we say we would be so bold?
John Le Carre manages to weave together a passionate love story, a chilling, suspenseful thriller, and a scathing commentary on the objectification of the African continent and its' people. The end result is one heck of a pager turner! I finished the book with tears in my eyes for both the beautiful, and ultimately tragic, love story and the sad commentary about our supposedly 'progressive' world.
I really did not enjoy this book, although I do not tend to like Le Carre's writing style to begin with. This story in particular, though, I felt was full of a lot of suspense build up and build up and then when you find out what happens, you think "that's it? All that build up for this?" I also felt this was a unique attempt from Le Carre in delving into a more political theme (i.e. the corrupt pharmaceutical companies). To put my feelings for Le Carre aside, though, I asked others who are Le Carre fans and they said they did not care for this book either and prefer his spy novels.
While nearly all of le Carre's books are excellent, this one stands head and shoulders above the pack. I had it on my paperback bookshelf at home for a long time and had seen the movie twice when I finally got around to reading it the last few months. I enjoyed it so much I acquired a new hardcover copy (through PaperbackSwap) for my personal collection.
Although there is an intelligence agent in this book it is so much more than a spy story or adventure story; like "The Perfect Spy" it can stand alone as a great novel. It speaks eloquently about human relationships, the British diplomatic corps, the pharmaceutical industry, and great power treatment of third world countries.
An aging, soon to be passed over, embassy bureaucrat evidently does more gardening than he does his young, brilliant wife. She traipses around Kenya with a do-good doctor attempting to nail to the wall a major pharmaceutical conglomerate that is systematically reducing the overpopulation with a new wonder drug. They get murdered and away we go. Hubby jumps on the trail to take all guilty parties to task. Good luck! Lets see, whos involved: a major international conglomerate pharmaceutical corporation, their monster African distributor, the corrupt Kenyan government, the do-nothing British Embassy in Kenya, their superior counterpart in merry old England, government political criminals, a myriad of corrupt aid agencies, local warlords, mercenaries, killers for hire. Had enough, or should I keep adding to the sewage. Typical Honest John. You may not appreciate the reality of the ending.
I wanted to love this book, but I had a really hard time getting into it. Not sure why. I liked the movie and this has to be one of the very few times I liked the movie better than the book. The book feels dry and disconnected from the characters.