Despite my newly discovered blogging addiction to which so many people, including those at WP -:)) related whole heartedly once I made it public in my last post, I managed to finish reading Peter Carey’s last novel ‘The Chemistry of Tears’.
And since this blog is meant to bring, amongst other themes, occasional reviews of more memorable books and movies, this post is dedicated to the Carey’s 12th novel.
Reading Carey’s prose feels like swimming in the warm summer sea just after the sunset … dissolving into glow, and soft, muted sounds of small waves breaking around your body. All is still; just your senses immersed into the emerald sea of beautiful words, skilfully sketched characters and brave turns.
Peter Carey is one of those authors who made me learn the true meaning of saying that ‘there is creative reading, as well as creative writing.’ (R W Emerson)
When reading the prose weaved so masterfully, I cannot help but feel both ecstatic and frustrated! Ecstatic with the beauty and skill displayed, and frustrated with my own limitations. My own shackles.
There are two main voices in the Chemistry. The main ones belong to a beautiful if somewhat eccentric woman named Catherine Gehrig and the second one to a wealthy mid-19th century Englishmen Henry Brandling. Through their voices Peter Carey manages to tell a story of love, lose, grief, and magic. He also takes risks and this is what makes him and others like him, an author. An artist whose gift enables him to construct worlds with words and bring the reader directly into those worlds to experience it … taste it, hear it, feel it. Like it or loath it. But feeling it. That is the mastery, the ‘thing’ of art. It earns its name, and its immortality through the impact it makes. The imprint it leaves in and around us.
Catherine is a horologist working in a fictional museum in a contemporary London. While fictional, the museum is utterly convincing and described vividly. Clearly the author has done waste amount of research into workings of museums.
Catherine is an elegant woman in her forties whose 13 years love affair with the Head Curator of Metals ends suddenly and unexpectedly when he dies of a heart attack. The Head Curator was married, although unhappily, and a father to two wonderful boys. Accordingly, Catherine must keep her grief to herself. She believes that no other soul knew about her affair. She also realized that she is utterly alone after long years of ‘have lived in the lazy conceited happy world of coupledom, something so deliciously contained by private language and its own sweet intolerances of everyone outside’ (verbatim, page 249). There is no so called ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in love or in grief for that matter. Every pain is just that; a pain.
In the midst of her trials Catherine discovers that her boss knew for a long time about her love. Through his kindness Catherine is able to turn to her work and discover Henry Brandling whose life mission was to commission a very special, and perhaps magical, automation for his sick son. To this end Henry travels to Germany to the Black Forrest, and to the ‘mighty race of clockmaker’s who live there’. Through series of events that originates from there, Carey really plays his craft splendidly … that we imagine versus that we call real, mechanical automation versus that we call alive.
The central provoking thought comes towards the very end; are we all really unable to link that we are seeing with that our lives have taught us?
My inclination is to say ‘yes’ since there is evidence everywhere that our visions are limited to that we are conditions to see … what do you think?