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The Chemistry of Tears [Hardcover]

Peter Carey
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Kindle Edition 4.49  
Hardcover 13.23  
Hardcover, 15 May 2012 --  
Paperback 4.92  
Audio, CD, Audiobook, Unabridged 14.40  
Audio Download, Unabridged 13.75 or Free with Audible.co.uk 30-day free trial

Book Description

15 May 2012
An automaton, a man and a woman who can never meet, two stories of love—all are brought to incandescent life in this hauntingly moving novel from one of the finest writers of our time. 

London 2010: Catherine Gehrig, conservator at the Swinburne museum, learns of the sudden death of her colleague and lover of thirteen years. As the mistress of a married man, she must struggle to keep the depth of her anguish to herself. The one other person who knows Catherine’s secret—her boss—arranges for her to be given a special project away from prying eyes in the museum’s Annexe. Usually controlled and rational, but now mad with grief, Catherine reluctantly unpacks an extraordinary, eerie automaton that she has been charged with bringing back to life.
As she begins to piece together the clockwork puzzle, she also uncovers a series of notebooks written by the mechanical creature’s original owner: a nineteenth-century Englishman, Henry Brandling, who traveled to Germany to commission it as a magical amusement for his consumptive son. But it is Catherine, nearly two hundred years later, who will find comfort and wonder in Henry’s story. And it is the automaton, in its beautiful, uncanny imitation of life, that will link two strangers confronted with the mysteries of creation, the miracle and catastrophe of human invention, and the body’s astonishing chemistry of love and feeling.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 229 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group (15 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307592712
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307592712
  • ASIN: 0307592715
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,094,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Carey is a wily and supremely confident storyteller on a grand scale' --The Times

'A new Peter Carey novel is cause for joy' --Guardian

'Like most of Carey's work, the novel is extraordinarily allusive and joyously inventive' --Daily Telegraph --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Book Description

Following the recent success of Parrot and Olivier in America comes another wonderfully rich tale with historical themes from the twice Booker-winner. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a tease! 17 April 2012
By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition
Peter Carey is a voice man. He writes different voices very well, and puts them to good use in telling compelling stories. In The Chemistry Of Tears, Carey tells two interwoven stories - that of Catherine Gehrig, a modern day museum conservator grieving the loss of Matthew, her adulterous lover and that of Henry Brandling, a Victorian eccentric travelling to Germany to commission a clockwork duck for his ailing son. The trick, when Carey tells his interwoven stories, is to make each narrative more interesting than the other. Here he scores admirably: the reader is rudely torn away from one engrossing narrative but within a few lines in totally rapt in the alternating story.

Catherine's story is heartbreaking. Unable to publicly grieve the loss of her lover, the curator of the Swinburne Museum (presumably a V&A Museum lookalike) sends her off to a backroom to unpack tea chests containing a special project. As she begins to unpack, she discovers Henry Brandling's notebooks and various mechanical parts that need cleaning and re-assembling - presumably the duck. The restoration is absorbing, described in great detail but always in an accessible way, but the real joy is in the secondary characters. The curator, Eric Croft, is a Delphic figure - he knows about Catherine's affair; he has all sorts of hidden agenda which allows him to drip feed knowledge into conversations. He plays games with people, but gives the impression of being a benign force. Then there is Amanda, a young apprentice conservator set to work alongside Catherine - perhaps to keep an eye on her. There are other great cameos - particularly from Matthew's grown up children who fail to reassure Catherine that she didn't take their father away from them. Catherine is flaky, upset and emotional.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars lacking real chemistry 23 May 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I saw a positive review of this book on Newsnight and decided it was worth a read. I was wrong. The dual narrative of the 'conservator' mourning her lover who is given the task of restoring this mechanical wonder and that of Henry Fielding, the original 19th century patron searching for the mechanical miracle cure for his sickly son started out ok but I just couldn't care about the conservator.

The more interesting part of the narrative was indeed Henry making his way to a far-flung corner of present-day Germany to find someone who could build him this mechanical wonder but the present-day narrative just fell flat. I found myself not really caring what was happening to Catherine (the conservator) and her bereavement over her colleague/lover. Too much wallowing in self-pity and drink. Also, I work in a national museum and I can safely say, curators/conservators just wouldn't be so selfish and self-centred when it comes to precious items. Taking anything out of a museum unauthorised, would just not happen so I just didn't believe she could get away with that kind of thing.

Overall, the story, which is the key thing for me, just didn't work. It may be well written and technically brilliant or whatever else Peter Carey is supposed to be but in essence, this book, this narrative - just didn't have that chemistry that makes good storytelling a joy to become immersed in. I have to disagree with Andrew Motion on the back cover when he compares Peter Carey to Charles Dickens. Not in a million years! For me anyway.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Confusing Story of Grief 26 April 2013
Format:Paperback
The Chemistry of Tears tells the stories of Henry Brandling, who in the mid 1850s commissions the manufacture of a mechanical duck for his chronically ill son and unwittingly becomes embroiled in the madness of its creator's universe,and Catherine Gehrig ,a modern day horologist who is tasked with repairing the 'duck' following the sudden death of her married lover. The novel is an exploration of grief and the forces which drive us throughout our lives. In Henry's case, it is the prospect that his son will not live long enough to see the automaton combined with his presence in a foreign land, the workings of which he is unable, and apparently unwilling, to understand. Catherine meanwhile is in complete thrall to her grief and becomes engrossed in reading about Henry's experiences through notebooks which are found alongside the mechanical duck. The characters share a similar disbelief at the apparent disintegration of their worlds. Henry cannot believe that the maker of the 'duck' does not seem to appreciate the urgency of his task; Catherine cannot fathom her world without the presence of her lover. Both are so absorbed in their own struggle as to be unable to acknowledge the events occurring around them. Throughout the novel is a thread of helplessness, manifested by the mechanic Sumper in the early narrative and by the character of Amanda in the modern day setting. Both of these individuals appear mentally unstable, but their instability is a response to a world of which others seem to be in total ignorance.

I looked forward to reading this so much but have been sadly disappointed. I was tempted by the idea of horology and the narratives being linked across time. However, I found a lot of it completely baffling, unless that was the point??
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK IS BRILLIANT!!!
There is a certain quality of story telling that comes to the fore when reading books by award-winning writers. 'The Chemistry of Tears' is like this. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Greggorio!
5.0 out of 5 stars This was one I had missed......read it over the Christmas holidays.
a story within a story......Peter Carey tells the truth about emotions..warts and all.....always find his titles make you want to pick up the book... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Yvonne Walkinshaw
5.0 out of 5 stars captivating story
It's a new multi-layered and complex novel from the two-times Booker winner.

London, 2010. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Ray Garraty
3.0 out of 5 stars original but...
Original, clever, well written, some (intellectual) suspense, but I got fed up with the main feminine character, too hysterical and ungrateful, and l dropped the book unfinished... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Bernard GALTIER
4.0 out of 5 stars I didn't understand it, but I loved it all the same
I was extremely puzzled by this book from the start, but having enjoyed every Carey novel so far, trusted him and persisted. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Phil Goodwin
3.0 out of 5 stars Probably better read
Not a great consumer of audio books but thought I would give this a try. The experience was not very satisfying and what might have read quite well, came across rather arch in... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Fatgillie
2.0 out of 5 stars The Chemistry of Tears of Boredom
I didn't really see the point of this book, to be honest. It is a little postmodern in the sense that people from different places in history are connected to each other by a... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Kindle Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Chemistry of tears
I found this book rather strange. I don't think Peter Carey understands how a grieving woman feels. I still have no idea what the automaton looked like; his powers of description... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Susie
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the effort
I can understand why this book has failed to achieve the public acclaim and popularity that has accompanied most of Peter Carey's fiction: it has a quiet, scholarly atmosphere... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Liz C
4.0 out of 5 stars An odd and orginal story, good but not quite his best
This book brings together Carey's wonderful writing with his creative imagination, in an odd story - but then so many of his books are a little odd, or perhaps that is just true... Read more
Published 23 months ago by R. Newton
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