When Catherine's lover dies suddenly, she has no one to turn to - their affair had been disguised from their colleagues and his family - except her work. A middle-aged curator in a London museum, Catherine is given a very particular project by the perceptive head of her department: a box of intricate clockwork parts that appear to be the remains of a nineteenth century automaton - a beautifully made mechanical bird. When she discovers that the box also contains the diary of the man who commissioned the machine, she is partially rescued from one obsession by another - who were Henry Brandling and the mysterious, visionary clockmaker he hired to make a gift for his absent son? And what was the end result that now sits in pieces in her studio? The Chemistry of Tears is both wildly entertaining and deeply moving, a portrait of love and loss that is simultaneously delicate and anarchic.