Book I forsook #1: The Chemistry of Tears

Sometimes, books just don’t deliver. You were caught by the author, the title, or perhaps the cover.  But 40 pages in, you acknowledge the awkward truth – you and this book will not have an enduring relationship.  So you end it precipitously, and without regret.

Peter Carey’s The Chemistry of Tears earns the dubious distinction of being the first book that I forsook in 2016.  I made it a through a couple of chapters then realised, actually, I didn’t care what happened to anyone in the book. A fair enough reason to quit, I think.

One of the central characters is Catherine, who we meet at the moment she finds out that her (married) lover of 13 years has died. I gather that we are supposed to journey with her as she works through her grief.  But I found her sorrow without depth, and so, could muster up very little empathy.  The other main character is a nineteenth-century chap who embarks on a European voyage to find a toy that might help his sickly son.  I didn’t understand his motivations, and so couldn’t invest in his journey.

As dual winner of the Booker prize, and many others, Peter Carey has been declared a great novelist.  Indeed, there are some positive reviews of this book.  But there are also some scathing ones too.  I’m afraid that as much as I liked Oscar and Lucinda, The Chemistry of Tears gets the big Thumbs Down.


This is a site about books and about tea, and how we should read more books and drink more tea. Sometimes, it's hard to know what books to read and what tea to drink. This is where I can help out.


  1. Leonie Campbell

    I always enjoy your book reviews Ms Falconer. Thank you – I’ll steer clear of this one. I have had a similar experience as I enjoyed Anthony Doerr’s All The Light You Cannot See sufficiently to buy another of his books, About Grace, and have found it utterly tedious. I skipped a hundred pages the other night (literally) and I really don’t think I lost any of the plot-line. I’m not sure why I’m persevering.

    You were spot-on with your summary of why the Stella awards are needed too.

    Hope you are well, I have been wondering how you are going, and I hope to see you in April – we’ll be in Melb in the week of the 20th….

    Love Leonie xoxo

    • Right now, I’m thinking about how to approach my next review, All The Light We Cannot See. How does one review a Pulitzer Prize winning novel..? A rendez-vous sounds brill!
      Perhaps you could do a short Thumbs Down review of About Grace?

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