Peter Carey - The Chemistry of Tears (4 stars)

Peter Carey - The Chemistry of Tears

Moving portrait of grief and genius from the twice Booker-winning author


Grief haunts the pages of Peter Carey’s new novel, the twice Booker-winning author painting a compelling picture of all-consuming love in the 19th and 21st centuries. Catherine Gehrig is an horologist turned museum conservator who, following the sudden death of her lover, is tasked with reconstructing a mysterious automaton, commissioned by aristocrat Henry Brandling as a present for his consumptive son 157 years earlier.

The project is initially intended to keep Gehrig focused while her personal life unravels, but pretty soon it becomes an obsession with Carey’s main characters encountering a cast of unstable geniuses as they are buffeted, almost trance-like, by sadness and their drive to complete at any cost.

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. But perhaps most impressive is the Australian writer’s ability to evoke emotion through human recollection; subsequently engrossing us in the mania of two very different narrators, and the increasingly strong ties between them.

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