The Constant Gardener by John le Carré

For my film and literature class this week, we read The Constant Gardener by John le Carré. The majority of the book happens in places surrounding a British High Commission in Nairobi, with a little bit written in Canada and Germany, as well. There are two main characters (and some minor ones) that the narrative follows at separate times. Sandy Woodrow, an older ‘gentleman’ who works at the High Commission, is the opening main character and Justin, a career diplomat similar to Sandy, is the later main character.

The Constant Gardener

This book is basically a murder-mystery story. Justin’s (attractive!) wife, Tessa, has been murdered and her travelling aid partner, Arnold Bluhm, has gone missing from the scene. Though we find out relatively early on what is going on and at least have an idea why Tessa was killed, Justin must go follow her steps to find out for himself.

I felt this book was hard to get into… I did not like Sandy Woodrow, and also did not especially enjoy his narrative. However, once the narrative started focusing on Justin’s continuance of Tessa’s cause, the book really picked up. Of course, I’ve always been a sucker for documents in books — emails, interviews, notes, etc. It is fun when an author includes things of that nature.

Both main male characters dealt with two side characters — Rob and Lesley, who were interviewers. I really loved these two characters, and am glad they had a part in finding out the ‘mystery.’ They were probably the most ‘pure’ characters besides Justin, who was a bit of a bore until the second half of the novel. I don’t want to spoil the ending… so I will just say that I did not approve of it. It wasn’t how I saw the book ending, or how I saw Justin dealing with the events as his character was progressing.

Although this was not in any way a bad book, I would not have picked it up on my own, nor would I have finished it if it wasn’t required for class. I welcomed Justin’s part of the story, and was quite happy to get away from Sandy, and so I did like the second half of the book. I appreciated the controversy surrounding pharmaceuticals in Africa, but the book felt overly long. Once I had picked up what was going on, I still had to wait for Justin to catch up. Overall, it was a decent read. We will be watching the movie on Monday, so look forward to reading about it!


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