When Catherine's secret lover dies suddenly, she has nowhere to turn to except her work. A middle-aged curator in a London museum, Catherine is given a very particular project: 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 the diary of the man who commissioned the machine, she is partially rescued from one obsession by another - who was 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.