The Chemistry of Tears

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“It was once said: ‘Brandling would see the glass half full even when it lay in shards around his feet’. Ha ha, indeed. But has no one bothered to observe that the optimistic view is commonly correct? That is why our fearful prayers are so often ‘answered.'”

-Peter Carey


George’s Cafe

“Opposite the Annexe I found George’s Cafe with its doors wide open to the freakish heat.” (pg 8)

George’s Cafe, which Catherine and Crofty also called a “greasy spoon” is where the two of them met the day after Catherine finds out about Matthew’s death. This is where Crofty tells her how Matthew died and told her about her new project.

You can visit George’s Cafe, just across from Olympia. If you want to recreate the scene as much as possible order some baked beans and two poached eggs, just like Catherine. I however, after looking at their menu, will be ordering their burger breakfast.

Kennington Road

“I had owned, since my dear grandfather died, this basement flat. It was on Kennington Road, diagonally opposite the Imperial War Museum.” (pg 31)

Catherine’s Kennington Road flat is the setting of many moments in this novel, from where she read from Henry Brandling’s notebooks, to where Matthew’s sons visited her, and where Amanda broke in.

As readers, we are lucky that Peter Carrey gave us such detailed description of where she lived. Right on Kennington Road, directly opposite from the Imperial War Museum. Take a look at the google maps here and you can walk the sidewalk of Kennington Road near the Imperial War Museum and maybe pass the flat Catherine lived in. While you are there, you should also visit the Imperial War Museum and learn about some people’s experiences of war. I’m sure Catherine has visited at least once, since she lived so close.

Buckingham Palace

“But he no longer doubted that ‘the liar’ had not only gained entry to the palace, but had captured Prince Albert, not in a reception room or even a study, but reading in his bed.” (pg 194)

Buckingham Palace is where Sumper breaks in to try and get the prince to read the ledger of names of people who have drowned in an attempt to save Cruickshank’s Engine. Sumper is then stabbed and sent back to Germany.

Today, you can visit the Buckingham Palace, and if you are there during the summer months you can actually head inside and visit the state rooms and the garden. Grab some tickets here for £26.50. No worries, if you are visiting during the rest of the year. You can still head to Buckingham Palace to view the Changing of the Guards. Just check the dates and time here before you go!



“In English that would mean Karl’s Rest. You see that of course. But what you cannot see is the Karl who dreamed Karlsruhe. That is, Karl III Wilhelm, Markgarf von Baden-Durlach. He fell asleep and had a dream, and what he dreamed is what you see on the back of this card. So what do you observe?” (pg 38)

Karlsruhe is the city in Germany Henry Brandling visits to find help working on the duck automaton for his son, Percy. This is where he meets Sumper and is shown the German playing card with the picture of Karlsruhe, and also where Sumper steals his plans for the duck.

If you take a look at the map of Karlsruhe, or picture from above, you will see it is shaped geometrically, just like the photo on the playing card had. The best way to view this layout in person is to head to the Karlsruhe Palace and climb 165 steps to the top of the tower to experience the breathtaking view of the city, for only €3. You’ll even see some of the Black Forest, which Henry Brandling travels to next.

Black Forest

“That is, I gave charge of my life to a child and his mother, and permitted myself—a rather dull chap really—to be transported, nay, elevated into the Black Forest which I had previously known only from the Brother Cruel, as my mater called them.” (pg 54)

After Henry’s plans are stolen by Sumper, he meets a mother and child who are willing to take him to Furtwangen to find Sumper. To get to Furtwangen they need to travel through the Black Forest, which Henry describes in detail through this section of the novel.

Follow Henry’s travels through the Black Forest with one of these Just-A-Driver Tours. They have tons of different itineraries, and you get a driver who will take you to each location. I recommend you do one of the itineraries that stops at the largest Cuckoo Clock!


“My first day in Furtwangen began.” (pg 64)

Furtwanten is the German town that Henry goes to find Sumper who stole his duck plans, and who will help build the automaton. While in Furtwangen, Henry stays with Sumper, the mother, and the child, Carl.

While visiting Furtwangen, you should go to The German Clock Museum which holds over 8,000 items from 160 years of history. This is a great way to learn more about horology and see some of the kinds of projects that Sumper would have worked on.


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