The Constant Gardener

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 August, 2005, 12:00am

The Constant Gardener

by John le Carre

Hodder, $101

This being a John le Carre novel, there's good versus evil and lots of intrigue into which complex characters are woven. Rather than the usual cold war setting, however, the action unfolds in Kenya. At the start, readers are shown a reserved cuckold in minor British diplomat Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes in the screen adaptation), the gardener of the title whose beautiful wife, Tessa, has been found with her throat slit. An 'unhinged' social worker and serial adulterer, she had been with one of her lovers at the time of her murder, an added humiliation her husband must endure. The more Quayle finds out about his wife, however, the more he understands her noble intentions. Tessa, it turns out, had been on the trail of unscrupulous international drug companies buying favour in Kenya and causing untold suffering by using its people as guinea pigs. There's little ambiguity in the message, however, which is where le Carre can be faulted: the novel sometimes resembles a personal moral crusade. A few more layers of grey between the black and white could have lifted it beyond just a good read.


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