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Publisher Description

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 time. 

London 2010: Catherine Gehrig, conservator at the Swinburne museum, learns of the sudden death of her colleague and lover of thirteen years. As the mistress of a married man, she must struggle to keep the depth of her anguish to herself. The one other person who knows Catherine’s secret—her boss—arranges for her to be given a special project away from prying eyes in the museum’s Annexe. Usually controlled and rational, but now mad with grief, Catherine reluctantly unpacks an extraordinary, eerie automaton that she has been charged with bringing back to life.
As she begins to piece together the clockwork puzzle, she also uncovers a series of notebooks written by the mechanical creature’s original owner: a nineteenth-century Englishman, Henry Brandling, who traveled to Germany to commission it as a magical amusement for his consumptive son. But it is Catherine, nearly two hundred years later, who will find comfort and wonder in Henry’s story. And it is the automaton, in its beautiful, uncanny imitation of life, that will link two strangers confronted with the mysteries of creation, the miracle and catastrophe of human invention, and the body’s astonishing chemistry of love and feeling.

Fiction & Literature
May 15
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Penguin Random House LLC

Customer Reviews

EqTrainer ,


For all the hype about this book, I am disappointed. The characters are not believable and the intrigue is all in the authors mind.

casualuser5 ,

The Chemistry of Tears

This is a rich, satisfying and ultimately funny book. Highly recommended. The tableau at the end is priceless. In the Library of Congress catalog data the clockwork automaton is misclassified as a robot, so it may be filed under science fiction, but it shouldn't be.

ReaderRN ,

The chemistry of tears

Very disappointing. Kept reading thinking something would make it worth my time. It was not.

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