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London 2011. Catherine Gehrig, conservator at the Swinburne museum, learns of the unexpected death of her lover of thirteen years - but as the mistress of a married man, she has to grieve in private. Her employer at the museum, aware of Catherine's grief, gives her a special project - to piece together both the mechanics and the story of an extraordinary automaton, commissioned in the nineteenth century by Henry Brandling to amuse his dying son. Linked by the mysterious automaton, Catherine and Henry's stories intertwine across time to explore the mysteries of life and death, the miracle and catastrophe of human invention and the body's astonishing chemistry of love and feeling.

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