Annabel Smith's Reviews > The Chemistry of Tears

The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey
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Apr 30, 12

bookshelves: australian
Read from April 24 to 29, 2012

This novel seemed promising but never really reeled me in.

Catherine Gehrig, grief stricken at the death of her (secret)lover, throws herself into her work at a London museum, restoring an enormous complex automaton. Along the way she learns the story of Henry Brandling, who commissioned the design of the automaton for his dying son, a century earlier.

Neither Catherine nor Henry are particularly sympathetic characters. Catherine is prickly and difficult and though this is attributable to her grief, it didn't make me like her anymore. Henry is endearing, especially in his love for his child, but his story unfortunately becomes hijacked by the story of the automaton's creator, the annoying and verbose Sumper, whose own story also gets hijacked eventually by the story of Sumper's mentor. Which I found all rather dull.

There was some lovely writing - "Henry's saw-tooth pen strokes had cut wormholes into time...Through one of these wormholes, as thin as a drinking straw, I had seen all that bright and poisonous invention" - and I found the relationship between Catherine and her assistant dramatic and interesting to read.

But overall the book was just too cryptic for me. At one point Catherine muses on Henry Brandling's story: "what was initially confusing would never be clarified no matter how you stared and swore at it. One learned to live with fuzziness and ambiguity" But I'm afarid I did't learn to live with fuzziness and ambiguity. At the end of the book I understood that some epiphany had occurred but I didn't know what it was and I wasn't sufficently interested to re-read it and work it out. Which isn't really the mark of a great book, is it?

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Cornmaven I used that very word, "cryptic" in my review. I personally don't think there was much of an epiphany, where there should have been.


Annabel Smith Cornmaven wrote: "I used that very word, "cryptic" in my review. I personally don't think there was much of an epiphany, where there should have been."

Unfortunately I can't read your review Cornmaven but I'm with you all the way!


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