The Chemistry of Tears
Author: Peter Carey
When her lover dies suddenly, all Catherine has left is her work.
The long affair had been kept secret from their colleagues at London's Swinburne Museum and now she must grieve in private. Or almost. In an act of compassion, the head of her department gives Catherine a very particular project, something to cling onto: a box of intricate clockwork parts that appear to be the remains of a nineteenth-century automaton, a beautiful mechanical bird.
Once she discovers that the box also contains the diary of the man who commissioned the machine, one obsession merges into another. Who was Henry Brandling? Who was the mysterious, visionary clockmaker he hired to make a gift for his ailing son? And what was the end result that now sits in pieces in Catherine's studio?
The Chemistry of Tears is a portrait of love and loss that is both wildly entertaining and profoundly moving, simultaneously delicate and anarchic.
At its heart is an image only the masterful Peter Carey could breathe such life into - an object made of equal parts magic, love, madness and science, a delight that contains the seeds of our age's downfall.
'The Chemistry of Tears – alive with the vivid evocation of place and period that is always Carey's forte – juxtaposes love for a dead partner with love for a dying son . . . A novel by one of the present day's most unconventionally creative writers. Oddball characters are propelled along zigzagging narrative channels, connections made with whimsical aplomb. As always, too, everything is burnished with vitalisingly poetic images. The Chemistry of Tears isn't only about life and inventiveness: it overflows with them.' Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times
'Audacious yet restrained, tender yet sardonic, and filled with moments of emotional complexity . . . A beautifully elegiac hymn to lost love.' Patrick Arlington, Australian Book Review
'Masterly historical fiction that both talks about now, and makes the past seem immediate . . . I loved this book for its mysteries, its hinted back stories, its reserve, and its underlying complexity.' Lucy Daniel, Daily Telegraph
'A master-class of writing and human insight is to be found in Peter Carey's new novel with its thrillingly off-kilter focus . . . There is so much powerful human emotion rising from the pages.' Liam Heylin, Irish Examiner
'The Chemistry of Tears is yet another triumph for its creator, breath-catchingly beautiful and tender in places, with strange and shocking revelations slowly revealed.' Camilla Pia, The List
'[Carey] remains a writer with an unerring sense for the perverse in human affairs. The continual and guilty delight of these early sections, the funniest, most cutting and anarchic, is that they acknowledge what we know to be true but dare not say: grief gives delirious licence to all those behaviours we otherwise hold in check.' Geordie Williamson, Weekend Australian
'Peter Carey's [is an] intricately constructed narrative, with its tender, astringent reflections on the nature of love and mortality, human ingenuity and human destructiveness . . . The fine bloom on his writing, the sharp, green bite of emotion and the pellucid observation seem entirely unaffected by success and a (well-deserved) place in the modern canon.' Jane Shilling and David Sexton, London Evening Standard
'This is a comic novel . . . but it's also a serious examination of love and loss and grief and obsession and how we manage to keep going even when all clocks have stopped.' Stephen Romei, The Spectator (Australia)