Lessons in Chemistry
by Bonnie Garmus
Publication Date April 5, 2022
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Genres: Fiction / Feminist, Fiction / Humorous / General, Fiction / Literary
***I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***
A must-read debut novel! Meet Elizabeth Zott: a one-of-a-kind scientist in 1960s California whose career takes a detour when she becomes the star of a beloved TV cooking show.
“It's the world versus Elizabeth Zott, an extraordinary woman determined to live on her own terms, and I had no trouble choosing a side.... A page-turning and highly satisfying tale: zippy, zesty, and Zotty.” —Maggie Shipstead, best-selling author of Great Circle
Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results.
But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.
Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.
Every once in a while, a book comes around that just stuns me. I can’t even put into words how much I loved Lessons in Chemistry. It is refreshingly different, historical, and highlights the struggles of women scientists in the late 1950s.
Chemist Elizabeth Zott is a very unusual woman, even by today’s standards, but back in the late 1950s, she was even more unusual. A brilliant scientist who was ahead of her time, she eschewed conformity and lived her life by her rules as much as she could.
Elizabeth falls in love with fellow scientist Calvin Evans, and they share a love of their work at the Hastings Research Institute. Calvin is the only man at the institute who believes she is as intelligent as the men, and he helps her navigate the male-dominated workplace.
All too soon, Elizabeth finds herself a single mother, and out of her job at the institute. She finds an opportunity to host a cooking show named Supper at Six. After all, cooking is nothing more than chemistry. Her oddball approach to hosting the show angers the producers and sponsors, but charms the housewives of Los Angeles and eventually the housewives of the country.
I just loved this story. It was not what I was expecting, and instead, I found quirky characters, a fascinating premise, and a history lesson. I was both infuriated and entertained as Elizabeth navigated the world around her, in her own, unconventional way. Intelligent, stubborn, and extremely self-sufficient, Elizabeth lives by her own rules and doesn’t care about the world around her. I loved her, but my favorite character was Six-Thirty, a very large, ugly mutt, who was trained by Elizabeth and Calvin and is an extremely intelligent dog.
If you’re looking for something a little bit different, that will charm and entice you, Lessons in Chemistry is the book for you. I received a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
What do you think of these covers! I like the UK one best, but they are all great.