Lessons in Chemistry – Bonnie Garmus

Published By: Doubleday
Pages: 400
Released On: 05/04/2022

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.

But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take 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.

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.

*****

If you only read one book this year, make sure it is this one.

Unlike everyone else it seems, this took me a little while to get started. Not because it didn’t grab me or was slow or had poor writing, quite the opposite in fact, it was fabulous from the start, and yet I found myself reading 2-3 chapters and then putting it down and reading something else. I think subconsciously I didn’t want to finish it too quickly because I knew it was going to be so amazing that I wanted it to last. But I will say once I got to about page 50, there was no stopping me, and I whizzed through the rest.

Elizabeth Zott is the ultimate feminist. I’ve made my views clear before about how I dislike characters being a feminist just for the sake of it, and having authors ram it down our throats, but Elizabeth isn’t like this,she simply wants to be valued for her brain and talents like the men in her field, rather than what’s under her skirt. And in the 1960s, it was a necessity for her to fight for her gender, because no-one else would give her the chance otherwise. She is a powerful inspiration and whilst fictional, she is a great role model for being yourself – even if it does rub people up the wrong way.

The book is very fresh and original, honest,sad, engaging, funny, loving, friendly, tough and scary but above all, it’s positive. It is such an enjoyable read.

I don’t know the extent of Bonnie’s scientific knowledge but it is so thoroughly written about that I can only imaging the quantity of research that she would have needed to do to make this story so seamlessly convincing.

It’s full of quirky characters, all perfectly formed in their own way. There are nice characters and there are not-so-nice characters, and yet I found myself liking them all. They all had flaws, nobody was perfect, and that made them feel human. I really think this is a master class in character building.

This may be one of the greatest novels I’ve ever read. Bonnier has a long promising writing career ahead of her, and you can be damn sure I’ll be reading every single thing she writes.

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