The Chemistry of Tears

Peter Carey. Knopf, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-0-307-59271-2
After the sudden death of her married lover, London museum conservator Catherine Gehrig channels her grief into the task of restoring a 19th-century automaton, in Carey’s powerful novel on the frailty of the human body and the emotional life we imbue in machines. Catherine, a horologist at the Swinburne Museum, and curator Matthew Tindall carried on a secret affair for 13 years. After Matthew dies of a heart attack, Catherine’s boss assigns her a project in the Swinburne Annex, away from the gossip. Numb with heartache, she’s uncharacteristically uninterested in opening eight sealed tea chests until the day of her lover’s funeral, when she discovers inside the chests 11 notebooks filled by Englishman Henry Brandling in 1854. The narrative then shifts to Henry’s point-of-view with his discovery of the inventor Vaucanson’s plans for a mechanical duck, just the thing, Henry thinks, to make his young consumptive son, Percy, happy. He travels to Germany in search of a master clockmaker, and Carey (Parrot and Olivier in America) alternates between present-day Catherine’s progress with repairing the avian automaton and Henry’s notebooks, about which Catherine becomes more obsessed as Henry meets a mysterious and potentially dangerous craftsman who promises to build him his “heart’s desire.” Catherine and Henry, linked both by the automaton and by grief, ponder questions of life and death, questions that, as posed by Carey, are more fascinating than any solution. Agent: Amada Urban, ICM. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/23/2012
Release date: 05/15/2012
Show other formats
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4640-2036-0
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-05660-2
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-571-29535-7
Paperback - 229 pages - 978-0-307-47608-1
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-307-36148-6
Compact Disc - 978-1-4640-2034-6
Ebook - 978-0-307-36149-3
Hardcover - 229 pages - 978-0-307-36147-9
Hardcover - 273 pages - 978-0-571-27997-5
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-571-27998-2
Hardcover - 7 pages - 978-1-4712-0023-6
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-1-4712-0432-6
Hardcover - 1 pages - 978-1-4712-0016-8
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-571-28000-1
Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-571-27999-9
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Email Address


Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.