9780307476081

The Chemistry of Tears (Vintage International)

Carey, Peter

ISBN 10: 0307476081 / 0-307-47608-1
ISBN 13: 9780307476081
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: 2013
Binding: Softcover
About this title:
Synopsis:

A Seattle Times Best Book of 2012

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 the automaton together, Catherine also uncovers the diaries of Henry Brandling, who, more than a hundred years prior, had commissioned the bird for his very ill son. Catherine finds resonance and comfort in Henry’s story. But it is the mechanical creature itself, in its uncanny imitation of life, that will link these two people across a century. Through the clockwork bird, Henry and Catherine will confront the mysteries of creation, the power of human invention, and the body’s astonishing chemistry of love and feeling.


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.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
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 focus. Everything was both crisper and further away. How had he died? How could he die?

I rushed back to my studio and Googled “Matthew Tindall,” but there was no news of any accident. However my inbox had an email which lifted my heart until I realized he had sent it at 4 p.m the day before. “I kiss your toes.” I marked it unread.

There was no one I dared turn to. I thought, I will work. It was what I had always done in crisis. It is what clocks were good for, their intricacy, their peculiar puzzles. I sat at the bench in the workroom trying to resolve an exceedingly whimsical eighteenth-century French “clock.” My tools lay on a soft grey chamois. Twenty minutes previously I had liked this French clock but now it seemed vain and preening. I buried my nose inside Matthew’s hat. “Snuffle” we would have said. “I snuffle you.” “I snuffle your neck.”

I could have gone to Sandra, the line manager. She was always a very kind woman but I could not bear anyone, not even Sandra, handling my private business, putting it out on the table and pushing it around like so many broken necklace beads.

Hello Sandra, what happened to Mr. Tindall, do you know?

My German grandfather and my very English father were clockmakers, nothing too spectacular—first Clerkenwell, then the city, then Clerkenwell again—mostly good solid English five-wheel clocks—but it was an item of faith for me, even as a little girl, that this was a very soothing, satisfying occupation. For years I thought clockmaking must still any turmoil in one’s breast. I was so confident of my opinion, so completely wrong.

The tea lady provided her depressive offering. I observed the anticlockwise motion of the slightly curdled milk, just waiting for him, I suppose. So when a hand did touch me, my whole body came unstitched. It felt like Matthew, but Matthew was dead, and in his place was Eric Croft, the Head Curator of Horology. I began to howl and could not stop.

He was the worst possible witness in the world.

Crafty Crofty was, to put it very crudely, the master of all that ticked and tocked. He was a scholar, a historian, a connoisseur. I, in comparison, was a well-educated mechanic. Crofty was famous for his scholarly work on “Sing-songs” by which is meant those perfect imperial misunderstandings of oriental culture we so successfully exported to China in the eighteenth century, highly elaborate music boxes encased in the most fanciful compositions of exotic beasts and buildings, often placed on elaborate stands. That was what it was like for members of our caste. We built our teetering lives on this sort of thing. The beasts moved their eyes, ears and tails. Pagodas rose and fell. Jewelled stars spun and revolving glass rods provided a very credible impression of water.

I bawled and bawled and now I was the one whose mouth became a sock puppet.

Like a large chairman of a rugger club who has a chihuahua as a pet, Eric did not at all resemble his Sing-songs, which one might expect to be the passion of a slim fastidious homosexual. He had a sort of hetero gung-ho quality “metals” people are expected to have.

“No, no,” he cried. “Hush.”

Hush? He was not rough with me but he got his big hard arm around my shoulder and compelled me into a fume cupboard and then turned on the extractor fan which roared like twenty hairdryers all at once. I thought, I have let the cat out of the bag.

“No,” he said. “Don’t.”

The cupboard was awfully small, built solely so that one conservator might clean an ancient object with toxic solvent. He was stroking my shoulder as if I were a horse.

“We will look after you,” he said.

In the midst of bawling, I finally understood that Crofty knew my secret.

“Go home for now,” he said quietly.

I thought, I’ve betrayed us. I thought, Matthew will be pissed off.

“Meet me at the greasy spoon,” he said. “Ten o’clock tomorrow? Across the road from the Annexe. Do you think you can manage that? Do you mind?”

“Yes,” I said, thinking, so that’s it—they are going to kick me out of the main museum. They are going to lock me in the Annexe. I had spilled the beans.

“Good.” He beamed and the creases around his mouth gave him a rather catlike appearance. He turned off the extractor fan and suddenly I could smell his aftershave. “First we’ll get you sick leave. We’ll get through this together—I’ve got something for you to sort out,” he said. “A really lovely object.” That’s how people talk at the Swinburne. They say object instead of clock.

I thought, he is exiling me, burying me. The Annexe was situated behind Olympia where my grief might be as private as my love.

So he was being kind to me, strange macho Crofty. I kissed him on his rough sandalwood-smelling cheek. We both looked at each other with astonishment, and then I fled, out onto the humid street, pounding down towards the Albert Hall with Matthew’s lovely silly hat crushed inside my hand.


i arrived home still not knowing how my darling died. I imagined he had fallen. He had hit his head. I hated how he always tipped back on his chair.

Now there would be a funeral. I tore my shirt in half, and ripped the sleeves away. All night I imagined how he had died, been run over, squashed, knifed, pushed onto the tracks. Each vision was a shock, a rip, a cry. I was in this same condition fourteen hours later when I arrived at Olympia to meet with Eric.

No one loves Olympia. It is a hateful place. But this was where the Swinburne Annexe was, so this was where I would be sent, as if I was a widow and must be burned alive. Well, light the leaves and pyre wood, I thought, because nothing could hurt more than this.

The footpaths behind the exhibition centre were unnaturally hot and narrow. The lanes were looped and dog-legged. Lethal high-speed vans lifted the dust and distributed the fag ends up and ...

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Book Description: Vintage Books, United States, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 201 x 130 mm. Language: English Brand New Book. A Seattle Times Best Book of 2012 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 the automaton together, Catherine also uncovers the diaries of Henry Brandling, who, more than a hundred years prior, had commissioned the bird for his very ill son. Catherine finds resonance and comfort in Henry s story. But it is the mechanical creature itself, in its uncanny imitation of life, that will link these two people across a century. Through the clockwork bird, Henry and Catherine will confront the mysteries of creation, the power of human invention, and the body s astonishing chemistry of love and feeling. Bookseller Inventory # ABZ9780307476081

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Book Description: Vintage, 2013. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: "Few writers manage so consistently and delightfully as Peter Carey to conjure wondrous scenes populated with idiosyncratic yet credible characters. The Chemistry of Tears does not disappoint . . . Carey is one of the finest living writers in English. His best books satisfy both intellectually and emotionally; he is lyrical yet never forgets the imperative to entertain . . . A wholly enjoyable journey." - The Economist (UK) "Characters that beguile and convince, prose that dances or is as careful as poetry, an inventive plot that teases and makes the heart quicken or hurt, paced with masterly precision, yet with a space for the ideas to breathe and expand in dialogue with the reader, unusual settings of place and time: this tender tour de force of the imagination succeeds on all fronts." - The Independent (UK) "A powerful novel on the frailty of the human body and the emotional life we imbue in machines . . . Catherine and Henry, linked both by the automaton and by grief, ponder questions of life and death, questions that, as posed by Carey, are more fascinating than any solution." - Publishers Weekly (starred, pick of the week) "Carey's exceptional storytelling talents are all on prominent display here. Catherine's and Henry's voices are lustily generated and expertly distinguished from one another; contemporary London and 19th-century Germany are conveyed in lightly distributed yet powerfully evocative physical detail; both narratives are invigorated throughout by a thrilling verbal energy, and an almost unfailing knack for alighting on the mot juste. These are precisely the qualities that have always characterised Carey's novels, and which have twice made him an eminently deserving winner of the Booker Prize." - The Observer (UK) "Carey's world is always interesting and thought-provoking . . . It is a unique combination of raw human passion and complicated puzzling about human ingenuity . . . Completely convincing." -A. S. Byatt, Financial Times (UK) "Carey's latest book is just as beautifully written and entertaining as its predecessors. Written in his signature style, moving and witty at the same time, his narrative takes hold right from the beginning and maintains its pace throughout . . . Profoundly moving but leavened with Carey's characteristic whimsical humour together with his refined and polished narrative style, this is a most delightful read." - The Chronicle (Australia) " The Chemistry of Tears isn't only about life and inventiveness: it overflows with them." - Sunday Times (UK) "An excellent novel . . . The appeal of science might lie in its promise to solve the world's most difficult problems, but Carey's achievement with The Chemistry of Tears is, by means of a story about science, to depict our most taxing problems in their full insolubility." - The National "Carey [demonstrates] the same easy-seeming mastery that he shows in all his novels. But here the fluency seems especially apt, because it is always devoted to the service of machines that themselves depend on being cunningly assembled and delightful. In other words, there is an immaculate fit of means with themes." - The Guardian (UK) "A tender novel of secrets, sorrow, and heartache . . . Carey writes like a dream. His twelfth novel is a compelling cocktail or beautiful prose, emotional complexity, and impressive ingenuity." - The Express (UK) "Beautifully made, entertaining, and comic . . . A story that's as ingenious as any piece of clockwork." - Irish Independent "I loved this book . . . It is not an exaggeration to say that Peter Carey has given new meaning to the term 'historical fiction' . . . Impressively, he continues to produce another masterclass every couple of years." - Daily Telegraph (UK) "A beautifully elegiac hymn to lost love . . . Audacious yet restrained, tender yet sardonic, and filled with moments of emotional complexity." - Australian Book Review "Wonderful. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_0307476081

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Book Description: Vintage. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0307476081 Forced to hide her grief when her married lover dies unexpectedly, museum curator Catherine Gehrig works in solitude to restore a 19th-century automaton and finds comfort in the journals of its adventurous commissioner. By the two-time Man Booker Prize-winning author of Oscar and Lucinda. 50,000 first printing. Bookseller Inventory # 16172562

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Book Description: Vintage Books, United States, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 201 x 130 mm. Language: English Brand New Book. A Seattle Times Best Book of 2012 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 the automaton together, Catherine also uncovers the diaries of Henry Brandling, who, more than a hundred years prior, had commissioned the bird for his very ill son. Catherine finds resonance and comfort in Henry s story. But it is the mechanical creature itself, in its uncanny imitation of life, that will link these two people across a century. Through the clockwork bird, Henry and Catherine will confront the mysteries of creation, the power of human invention, and the body s astonishing chemistry of love and feeling. Bookseller Inventory # ABZ9780307476081

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Book Description: Paperback. Book Condition: New. 135mm x 19mm x 210mm. Paperback. 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 tim.Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. 229 pages. 0.240. Bookseller Inventory # 9780307476081

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Book Description: Vintage Books. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. 240 pages. Dimensions: 7.9in. x 5.1in. x 0.4in.A Seattle Times Best Book of 2012When Catherine Gehrig, a museum conservator in London, falls into grief after her lovers 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 the automaton together, Catherine also uncovers the diaries of Henry Brandling, who, more than a hundred years prior, had commissioned the bird for his very ill son. Catherine finds resonance and comfort in Henrys story. But it is the mechanical creature itself, in its uncanny imitation of life, that will link these two people across a century. Through the clockwork bird, Henry and Catherine will confront the mysteries of creation, the power of human invention, and the bodys astonishing chemistry of love and feeling. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN, Momence,IL, Commerce,GA. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9780307476081

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