Five words from the blurb: automaton, love, grief, mechanics, life
In the past I’ve had a hit/miss relationship with Carey’s books, but now he has produced a book that I neither love, nor hate. I think my lack of passion in either direction can be seen as a bad sign.
The Chemistry of Tears begins with Catherine, an automation conservator, discovering that the man she’s been having a secret affair with has died. Unable to share her grief she retreats into isolation. Luckily her boss is aware of the situation and gives her the task of restoring a rare automation. Notes produced at the time of its creation also give her the opportunity to discover the difficulties faced by its commissioner and these are woven into the story as a second narrative thread set in 19th century Germany.
I enjoyed the investigation into the difficulties of private grief, but the book failed to maintain this beautifully claustrophobic atmosphere. I was unable to bond with Catherine and although I initially enjoyed the descriptions of the automaton I quickly became bored by the increased technical detail.
The historical section about the commissioning of the automaton was also interesting at first, but mirrored the other narrative arc in becoming increasingly dull.
I suspect that the effects were all deliberate, as suggested by this quote from the book:
Unfortunately the mechanical writing did cloak any strangeness that may have been present and I’m afraid that it also prevented the writing from being intriguing. The coldness of the narrative is probably meant to symbolise the lifelessness of machines, but as a reader it frustrated me. I wanted more emotion and some narrative drive.
Some interesting ideas were sprinkled through the text, but overall I was a bit disappointed. It was a mildly entertaining read, but if you’d like to read a story about automata I’d recommend The Invention of Hugo Cabret every time.
The thoughts of other bloggers:
It’s an enjoyable enough read but my enthusiasm for turning the pages towards the end came more from the prospect of finishing it rather than wanting to know how it finished. Just William’s Luck
This book is good. Really good. Shearer’s Book Blog
I had no connection to any of the characters, not liking them, nor caring what happened to them in the end. Back to Books