In an interview a few years ago, Carey spoke of admiring the quality of "risk" in works of fiction. This, I think, is exactly right, risk being an index of a book's and a writer's ambition. The Chemistry of Tears takes risks, is quietly ambitious and is, in its last pages, both touching and thought-provoking.
Andrew Miller - New York Times Book Review
Vividly rendered...Carey has given each story the chaotic quality of hallucination.... He shapes the two madnesses with imaginative intensity.
Leave it to a protean virtuoso like Peter Carey to write a novel, The Chemistry of Tears, that draws compelling parallels between a Victorian-era automaton of a defecating duck and the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. And, what’s more, to make of it another delightfully recondite tour-de-force performance.
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.
A writer of such sustained flair that he has, only two years after his Man Booker–shortlisted Parrot and Olivier in America, delivered another stylish tour de force.... With typical dogged panache, Carey’s exploration of technology and tears indicates that emotion defies rationalism’s impositions.
Daily Telegraph (UK)
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.
For his new, briskly paced novel, The Chemistry of Tears, [Caret] has pulled off a nifty trick, offering interconnected plots set in two distinct eras.... Carey’s deft, spare prose is full of striking images.... [He] explores a series of interconnected themes that are admirably complex for such a short book. Richmond Times-Dispatch
A beautifully written, richly layered novel that includes treats like a meaningful, hidden message in Latin and a mysterious blue wooden block hidden inside the automaton.... Its graceful subtlety will keep you thinking long after you've closed the book.
Catherine, a horologist at the Swinburne Museum, and curator Matthew Tindall carried on a secret affair for 13 years. After Matthew dies of a heart attack, Catherine’s boss assigns her a projec...when she discovers...11 notebooks filled by Englishman Henry Brandling in 1854. The narrative then shifts to Henry’s point-of-view with his discovery of the inventor Vaucanson’s plans for a mechanical duck, just the thing, Henry thinks, to make his young consumptive son, Percy, happy.... Carey (Parrot and Olivier in America) alternates between present-day Catherine’s progress with repairing the avian automaton and Henry’s notebooks, about which Catherine becomes more obsessed as Henry meets a mysterious and potentially dangerous craftsman who promises to build him his “heart’s desire.” 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.
[T]he incomparable Carey returns with a story of secret grief assuaged. A museum conservator in London, Catherine learns that her lover and colleague has died but hides her pain because he was a married man. Her boss, the only person who knew of her affair, seeks to help by having her work alone on a project involving a 19th-century automaton. When she discovers the diaries of Henry Brandling, the man who built the automaton, she enters into an understanding of the desire for invention, the magic of creation, and the healing power of love.
A puzzling novel that doesn't reveal its secrets easily. The latest from the renowned and prolific Carey (Parrot and Olivier in America, 2010, etc.) is too fanciful to pass as realism yet too inscrutable for parable or fable. Though all of it (or at least half of it) concerns a grieving woman's attempt to re-engage with life after the death of her married lover, the prevailing spirit is comedic, even whimsical, rather than tragic. And the prevailing metaphor is that of clockwork, the mechanical precision of the museum where she serves as a curator.... For what it's worth, the thematic key would seem to be a Latin epigram, which translates, "You cannot see what you can see." It's a novel that will amuse or challenge some and frustrate others.
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