Thursday, 2 September 2010

The Constant Gardener

The Constant Gardener is a film and book, by acclaimed author John le Carré. Le Carré is better known for his Cold War spy novels, including The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The Constant Gardener departs from this background, it is set in modern-day Kenya, dealing with issues of corruption, international aid and corporate evil. Without spoiling the ending, le Carré has written a wonderfully evocative critique of the western medical activities in Africa.

The book is a must read for anyone interested in aid work, pharmaceuticals or foreign policy. It considers issues ranging from misgovernance and western complicity to medical ethics and the dangers of food aid.

The plot is perfectly crafted, however the characters can wear a bit thin. As with any story of "Good vs Evil", subtlety can be lot as the author tries to create flawless angels and immoral devils. Le Carré falls straight into this trap, but redeems himself by creating a unique supporting cast, all carried by the wave of events to question their moral integrity.

In the Author's Note supporting the novel le Carré describes his sources, all painstakingly researched. One source I would like to highlight is the underfunded, understaffed BUKO, a German campaign group researching the activities of pharmaceutical firms in the Third World.

Le Carré is, and always will be a superb author. I strongly suggest you read this book.

**** 4/5 stars

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