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The Chemistry of Tears

2.96  ·  Rating details ·  3,581 ratings  ·  645 reviews
When Catherine Gehrig, a museum conservator in London, falls into grief after her lover’s sudden death, her boss gives her a special project. She will bring back to “life” a nineteenth-century mechanical bird. As she begins to piece together the automaton, Catherine also uncovers the diaries of Henry Brandling, who, more than a hundred years prior, had commissioned the bir ...more
Hardcover, 232 pages
Published May 15th 2012 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2012)
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2.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,581 ratings  ·  645 reviews

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Jan 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A hardback. I don't normally do hardbacks, but this was a birthday present to myself.

Hardbacks do feel nice though don't they? It's a pity the appearance of this one is spoilt by a really sappy cover picture that makes it look like a Tasteful Ladies' Romance. Which it is not. Needless to say.

I wish they'd used one of the perfectly splendiferous (false!) illustrations of Vaucanson's Duck:

Or this spiffy Drais:

Also needless to say it's bleeding brilliant, it is Peter Carey after all. Well, OK, he
Amy Warrick
Jun 23, 2012 rated it did not like it
Peter Carey, what is this??? You're all over the map here, nothing makes sense, nobody is likable, I am just...incapable of getting this book. It started out promising, woman gets over grief in re-assembling automaton, story of automaton told in alternate chapters, and then, it dissolves into pixels the way my DVR playback does sometimes.

I understand you're a genius and I thought we had a future. We are just too different.

p.s. loved Oscar & Lucinda
Annabel Smith
Apr 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: australian
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 grie
The Chemistry of Tears is one of those typical literary novels: no surprise that it was already a favourite for the Booker before the longlist was even announced (although it didn't end up being nominated). It starts with Catherine Gehrig, a museum conservator, discovering that her long-term (married, secret) lover has died suddenly. Consumed with grief which she cannot allow the world to see, she immerses herself in a new project to restore a swan automaton. During this process, she discovers t ...more
Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Pat Clotfelter
Recommended to Melody by: Brian Johnson
I am usually so hard on books. I don't know why. But it doesn't take much to make me lop off a star. But this one I forgave, (although I didn't have to forgive much). I felt so protective of the characters and the story and forgave the fact that there are some things I still don't get.
This is a story of love and hope. Of the inherent good and evil in all things. Of connection. Of separation. Of the past and the present.
The automaton represents the beginning of the machine age. An invitation to
May 28, 2014 rated it did not like it
Having enjoyed Oscar and Lucinda I approached this book with interest and anticipation only to be really, really disappointed. To me it was a muddle of ideas, a lot of beautiful but meaningless prose and one of the worst endings I have ever read. I actually have no idea of what happened in the last few pages and have no inclination to go back and try to work it out. Carey is certainly an excellent writer but this particular book missed the point for me.
Jul 04, 2012 rated it it was ok

I will allow that this is probably an excellent book, written by an excellent author. Other reviews have noted that it might have been better to have read it with a book club, as insights would be gained by the comments of other readers.

That comment does make me feel a bit better, because I must admit to being thoroughly confused throughout most of this book. And, that is just not why I pick up a book to read. I like to understand what is going on in a story, I don't enjoy wondering what j
Skorofido Skorofido
Ε; Ορίστε; ‘Ώδινεν όρος και έτεκεν μυν…’ είναι τούτο το βιβλίο… κοινώς πολύ κακό για το τίποτα… ανεμογκάστρι ήταν και ξεφούσκωσε…
Το βιβλίο ξεκινάει πολλά υποσχόμενο… Η Κάθριν, συντηρήτρια – ωρολογοποιός, μάστερ σεφ στον τομέα της, βιώνει τον ξαφνικό χαμό του κρυφού εραστή της… μέσα στο βαρύ πένθος της που δεν μπορεί να το μοιραστεί με κανέναν γιατί ο εραστής ήταν κρυφός καθότι και παντρεμένος και προϊστάμενος της, έρχεται ο διευθυντής του μουσείου να τη βγάλει από την κατάθλιψη που βιώνει… μαζί
Apr 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Chemistry of Tears is the story of an horologist, Catherine Gehrig, who works in a small London museum. Her lover, Matthew, one of the museum other curators, has just died suddenly and she is distraught. To take her mind off her grief her boss gives her a new job, to restore a mysterious automaton, which may or may not be a replica of Vaucanson's Duck. It arrives in her studio in eight gigantic tea-chests and amongst the myriad of broken parts she finds the diaries of its former owner, a Vic ...more
Jun 08, 2012 rated it liked it
3 and 1/2 stars

I read Carey's "Oscar and Lucinda" with an online group many years ago and I'm wishing I could've done the same with this, my second of his novels. Though I recognize his many merits, I'm just not sure Carey is for me.

I was reminded of Oscar as I read about Henry. Both are men who find themselves on a strange journey in a strange place due to an obsession, obsessions that border on madness and have to do with the building of a folly at the intersection of Art and Science. Henry is
Angela Elizabeth
Feb 22, 2012 rated it did not like it
Disappointing for the latest book from such a significant writer. I've never been much of a fan of Carey, but this book is is even more disappointing than I expected. I was hopeful I would love it, as the subject matter was right up my alley. The plot is wonderful, a gift for any author - following the death of her secret lover, a antique watchmaker and antiquities specialist at the British museum is forced to grieve in complete silence lest her secret be discovered, until she learns some friend ...more
Mar 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am not usually a fan of Peter Carey, but this is the first book I have ever read that I wanted to start reading again immediately I finished it (and I think I need to, now I have read the ending). I will not write here what the book is "about", as it has been written already in enough reviews and so it would be redundant. But what other reviewers have said the book is about, ie obsession, grief, etc, is what it is about on the surface. I am astounded only one other reviewer has noted another a ...more
Jul 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
Well, that was disappointing.

I love the title. I love the premise. I thought this would be dark, and quirky, and funny, and poignantly sad. I thought I'd be drawn into the world of an eccentric genius. Instead, I feel as though I was cornered by a tedious drunk who monologues, gets lost asides, and reiterates the same point over, and over, and over again. By the end, I wasn't even paying attention. I was nodding politely and edging my way to the door.

But I finished it...more or less.
Ron Charles
May 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
Peter Carey’s new novel is about robots. I think. And grief. Yes, I’m positive it’s got something to do with grief. And art restoration, computers and global warming. And possibly space aliens, but don’t quote me on that. The Australian two-time Booker winner, who lives in New York, is one of my all-time favorite novelists. For more than 30 years, he’s published dazzlingly smart stories about con artists and fanatics with deceptions nested inside confusion tied up with madness. But his latest no ...more
Jeanette Lewis
Oct 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: aussie-authors
This book reveals the slightly off centre mastery and vivid imagination that is Peter Carey. The read follows 2 time lines, one 1854 to relative present day. Sometimes this type of writing can be difficult to keep up with, however in the scenes of this book this isn’t the case even with the story revolving around an “automata” with Carey taking from history, 1743 Jacques Vaucanson. The reader will recognise that both the main characters are desperate with their separate losses and loneliness but ...more
E. Adeline
I really wanted to like this book. I should love this book, as the blurb on the back makes it sound exactly like the sort of novel I would not only pick up to read once, but return to again and again.

Sadly, this is not the case.

The book centers around Catherine Gehrig, a conservator at a London museum, who tries to deal with the grief of losing her lover. As she grapples with this grief, her boss entrusts her with a mechanical bird he wants her to restore. The crates bearing the different parts
May 26, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
The Chemistry of Tears is the first book by Peter Carey that I've tried to read. I said 'tried to read' because I actually didn't manage to finish the book. I found the blurb to be quite interesting although I didn't know much about automatons, museum work or about nineteenth century Germany. I wanted to find out more about how Henry and Catherine's two worlds will be linked and was fully prepared to be sympathetic towards Catherine.

However, The Chemistry of Tears didn't work out the way I expec
Jun 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed Peter Carey's Parrot and Olivier in America in which the author tells an interesting tale using two separate 'voices', those of the two protagonists named in the title. The Chemistry of Tears also uses the same formula, but with a difference. The result is the narration of a peculiar adventure using a fascinating interweaving of two connected plots.

One of the voices speaks to us from times long past, the other from a woman rather than a man (ie the author). Thus, Carey set himself a fa
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: australia, 12review
Clockwork is a fascinating concept to weave through a story in the digital age. I am old enough to remember winding my first watch but it is many years now since I have had anything other than a digital watch. If I put my mind to considering whether our household has any clockwork mechanisms at all, all I can come up with is a (somewhat twee) Christmas decoration featuring Santa on a music-box merry-go-round and our (rather unreliable) 1930s mantel clock. That’s probably typical of most househol ...more
May 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: may-2012
In two words...very disappointing. I have read and enjoyed two other novels by Peter Carey and was looking forward to this book as well. Although it started out intriguing with a man, a woman, and an automaton, and the meaning of love in its states of that of a father for his son and a woman for her lover, it ended without an ending as our author seemed to lose his way frustrating this reader.

Catherine, the protagonist is overwhelmed with grief as she tries to cope with the loss of her married l
Carol Meissner
Dec 25, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: irritating
"Not worth reading…"
Great! How exciting to write a negative review of a book others seem to love. And how annoying! The main character is someone I would never want to know. She is a woman who has been the lover of a man for thirteen years but thinks no one knew of their relationship. Catherine is egotistical and manic. For a "mature" woman to behave with the poor judgment she displays toward one who is kind, over and over again, is rephrehensible. Catherine acts like a baby. She drinks, snorts
My first Peter Carey was like eating Vegemite on fluffy sour bread toast, with melted butter. Vegemite is an acquired taste, salty, yeasty, fermented goodness. Carey has managed to toast the bread (Vegemite always tastes better on white bread) just right, grazed with heat, soft in the middle. Smothered with butter, then he dusts Vegemite light over, Carey managed to do this skilfully spread the yeast, lightly where needed, and larded it where needed. But not to much - every Vegemite connoisseur ...more
Oct 28, 2012 rated it did not like it
If you like whiny adultresses whose lover has died and indirect storytelling lapsing into bizarre unwelcome philosophizing then this is the book for you. In the beginning I disliked the adulteress living in current times but I liked the journal entries written by a 19th century man. Then, as the story progressed and the man was confused by his interactions with the German townspeople where he hoped to have an automaton built and those interactions were never explained and instead the man's journ ...more
The economical rant: this is just awful.

For a slightly longer one:

Laura Tenfingers
DNF 67%

Absolutely incomprehensible. I'm assuming the author was trying to do something literary and deep here, but he went way too high-brow and so far over my head I couldn't make heads or tails of anything in this book. And I ain't no slouch.

One star is one too many.
Nicola Mansfield
Reason for Reading: Peter Carey's True History of the Kelley Gang is one of my all time favourite books and I've always meant to read another by the author. With this latest book coming out, the time period and the automata piqued my interest enough to decide to give him another go at this time.

I'm not even going to try and analyze just what the hidden, under the surface meanings are in this story, there are plenty but it gives me a headache looking at this book that way. I just want to read it
I have spent almost six months with this 270 page novel, because I used it as a "handbag book". In one way or another, its characters have been on my mind constantly. Maybe this is why I can relate to the book so easily now, maybe I wouldn't have responded the way I did had I read it in one sitting. It is a different experience when you read half a chapter on a train journey and then wonder at every traffic light how your chapter might continue.

This book fits me well - there are automatons, whi
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: amazing
I bought this book as a birthday gift for a friend, for whom I initially had felt very clever buying 'The People of the Book.' Turns out she already had it, bless my eavesdropping heart.

Well, I had read a review of 'The Chemistry of Tears' that was sent to me by, which is terrifyingly good at guessing what I will like, and it occurred to me that my friend, who is not only Jewish and generally artsy (hence 'the People of the Book') but also, more specifically, has spent time interning
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Cover synopsis: "An automaton, a man and a woman who can never meet, a secret love story, and the fate of the warming world are all brought to incandescent life in this hauntingly moving novel from one of the finest writers of our time." Sounds absolutely irresistible, right? Especially irresistible when one is standing in Schiphol Airport clasping a dead Kindle. Ultimately, not only resistible but unsatisfying.

Told in two arcs spanning 150 years with occasional intersection. The problem is the
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Plot of Henry - Understand? 3 56 Aug 02, 2012 09:57AM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Peter Carey was born in Australia in 1943.

He was educated at the local state school until the age of eleven and then became a boarder at Geelong Grammar School. He was a student there between 1954 and 1960 — after Rupert Murdoch had graduated and before Prince Charles arriv
“Descartes said that animals were automata. I have always been certain that it was the threat of torture that stopped him saying the same held true for human beings. Neither I nor Matthew had time for souls. That we were intricate chemical machines never diminished our sense of wonder, our reverence for Vermeer and for Monet, our floating bodies in the salty water, our evanescent joy before the dying of the light.” 1 likes
“To refrigerate a clock was an extremely violent act, not one I could explain to anyone.” 1 likes
More quotes…