Sunday, 8 April 2012

Book of the Week and Bibliography - Peter Carey, The Chemistry of Tears

Peter Carey is Australia’s preeminent author of literary fiction, and this week sees the publication in the UK of his most recent novel, The Chemistry of Tears. I have written about Carey previously, and a new Carey novel is always something of an event – he has twice won the Booker Prize along with many other awards. Like many of Carey’s novels, The Chemistry of Tears is partly historical; in this case a contemporary narrative in London is coupled with the Englishman Henry Brandling's journey into a 19th-century Germany redolent of the Brothers Grimm. Automata provide the link between the two time periods; Carey originally qualified as a scientist and science as a belief system is a significant theme in this novel. Not surprisingly, the reviewers seem to like it and I am looking forward to reading it.

As well as the standard Faber and Faber hardcover, there is a signed limited edition from the London Review of Books bookshop, published in association with Faber & Faber, comprising 75 copies, forty-five of which have been quarter-bound in Gray 31 Harmatam fine leather and Atlantic Calm cloth sides, numbered 1 to 45, and thirty copies fully bound in the same leather, numbered i to xxx. All books have coloured tops, blue and white head and tail bands, Fedrigoni Merida Indigo endpapers, and are housed in a slipcase.

 “An automaton, a man and a woman who can never meet, a secret love story, and the fate of the world are all brought to 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 unexpected death of her colleague and lover of thirteen years. As the mistress of a married man she has to grieve in private. One other person knows their secret, the director of the museum, who arranges for Catherine to be given a special project away from prying eyes. Mad with grief, the usually controlled and rational Catherine discovers a series of handwritten notebooks telling the story of the man who originally commissioned the extraordinary and eerie automata she has been asked to bring back to life. With a precocious new assistant, Amanda, at her side, she starts to piece together both the clockwork puzzle and the story of the mechanical creature which was commissioned in 19th century Germany by an English man, Henry Brandling, as a 'magical amusement' for his consumptive son. Having been asked to leave his home by his wife, Henry turns his hurtful departure into an adventure that he records for his young child. But it is Catherine Gehrig, in a strangely stormy and overheated London nearly two hundred years later, who will find comfort and wonder in reading Henry's story. And it is the automata, in its beautiful, uncanny imitation of life, that will link two strangers confronted with the mysteries of life and death, the miracle and catastrophe of human invention and the body's astonishing chemistry of love and feeling.”


1979 War Crimes, University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia, Queensland)
1980 The Fat Man in History, Faber and Faber 1981 Bliss, Faber and Faber
1985 Illywhacker, Faber and Faber
1988 Oscar and Lucinda, Faber and Faber
1991 The Tax Inspector, Faber and Faber
1994 The Unusual Life of Tristran Smith, Faber and Faber
1995 Collected Stories, Faber and Faber
1995 The Big Bazoohley, Faber and Faber
1997 Jack Maggs, Faber and Faber
2001 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account, Bloomsbury
2001 True History of the Kelly Gang, Faber and Faber
2002 Four Easy Pieces, Belmont Press
2003 My Life as a Fake, Faber and Faber
 2005 Wrong about Japan, Faber and Faber
2006 Theft: A Love Story, Faber and Faber
2008 His Illegal Self, Faber and Faber
2010 Parrot and Olivier in America, Faber and Faber
2012 The Chemistry of Tears,  Faber and Faber

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