Cornmaven's Reviews > The Chemistry of Tears

The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey
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's review
Jun 22, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: adult
Read in June, 2012

The two stories converge model was intriguing, but there was much about this novel that just didn't make sense to me. Grieving mistress confronts a 19th century automaton and its accompanying paperwork, given to her by her boss as way to help her through her grief.

The first problem is that, for me, Catherine was not a sympathetic character. I felt sorry for her for about the first 50 pages, then after that she became this immature drunk who felt the world revolved around her. I really liked Henry Brandling, her 19th C counterpart. But so many characters within his story were too cryptic. I am sure that Frau Helga is a symbol/metaphor for something, but I couldn't fathom what. And then there's the internal combustion engine design, which for a long time I thought was being described as an early design of the modern computer. I just couldn't make heads or tails of the intrigue, not to mention Queen Victoria paying a visit somewhere in there. The silversmith/fairy tale collector was interesting, but I wished more had been done with that character.

And in the end, I never felt as if Henry's story every really affected Catherine to the point where she was able to resolve her issues acceptably. And what was up with her bi-polar assistant who is the girlfriend of her lover's son? So contrived.

I picked this up because I am fascinated with automatons, but even their presence in the story never really fit so well for me that I said, of course, which I think I was supposed to do. I did learn a lot about preservation and curation though, and that was helpful.

This thing just didn't feel right. Perhaps a mere mortal like me wasn't able to appreciate the "genius" of Carey, a two time Booker award winner. Or maybe he was being too obtuse for everyone.
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