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The Chemistry of Tears

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The Chemistry of Tears

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:...
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:...
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Description-
  • 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.

    From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpts-
  • Chapter 1

    Catherine

    Dead, and no one told me. I walked past his office and his assistant was bawling.

    "What is it Felicia?"

    "Oh haven't you heard? Mr. Tindall's dead."

    What I heard was: "Mr. Tindall hurt his head." I thought, for God's sake, pull yourself together.

    "Where is he, Felicia?" That was a reckless thing to ask. Matthew Tindall and I had been lovers for thirteen years, but he was my secret and I was his. In real life I avoided his assistant.

    Now her lipstick was smeared and her mouth folded like an ugly sock. "Where is he?" she sobbed. "What an awful, awful question."

    I did not understand. I asked again.

    "Catherine, he is dead," and thus set herself off into a second fit of bawling.

    I marched into his office, as if to prove her wrong. This was not the sort of thing one did. My secret darling was a big deal--the Head Curator of Metals. There was the photo of his two sons on the desk. His silly soft tweed hat was lying on the shelf. I snatched it. I don't know why.

    Of course she saw me steal it. I no longer cared. I fled down the Philips stairs into the main floor. On that April afternoon in the Georgian halls of the Swinburne Museum, amongst the thousand daily visitors, the eighty employees, there was not one single soul who had any idea of what had just happened.

    Everything looked the same as usual. It was impossible Matthew was not there, waiting to surprise me. He was very distinctive, my lovely. There was a vertical frown mark just to the left of his big high nose. His hair was thick. His mouth was large, soft and always tender. Of course he was married. Of course. Of course. He was forty when I first noticed him, and it was seven years before we became lovers. I was by then just under thirty and still something of a freak, that is, the first female horologist the museum had ever seen.

    Thirteen years. My whole life. It was a beautiful world we lived in all that time, sw1, the Swinburne Museum, one of London's almost-secret treasure houses. It had a considerable horological department, a world-famous collection of clocks and watches, automata and other wind-up engines. If you had been there on 21 April 2010, you may have seen me, the oddly elegant tall woman with the tweed hat scrunched up in her hand. I may have looked mad, but perhaps I was not so different from my colleagues--the various curators and conservators--pounding through the public galleries on their way to a meeting or a studio or a store room where they would soon interrogate an ancient object, a sword, a quilt, or perhaps an Islamic water clock. We were museum people, scholars, priests, repairers, sand-paperers, scientists, plumbers, mechanics--train-spotters really--with narrow specialities in metals and glass and textiles and ceramics. We were of all sorts, we insisted, even while we were secretly confident that the stereotypes held true. A horologist, for instance, could never be a young woman with good legs, but a slightly nerdy man of less than five foot six--cautious, a little strange, with fine blond hair and some difficulty in looking you in the eye. You might see him scurrying like a mouse through the ground-floor galleries, with his ever-­present jangling keys, looking as if he was the keeper of the mysteries. In fact no one in the Swinburne knew any more than a part of the labyrinth. We had reduced our territories to rat runs--the routes we knew would always take us where we wanted to go. This made it an extraordinarily easy place to live a secret life, and to enjoy the perverse pleasure that such a life can give.

    In death it was a total horror. That is, the same, but brighter, more in...

About the Author-
  • PETER CAREY is the author of eleven previous novels and has twice received the Booker Prize. His other honors include the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Born in Australia, he has lived in New York City for twenty years.

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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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