Title: Lessons in Chemistry
Author: Bonnie Garmus
Published: March 29th 2022
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 5 stars
Your ability to change everything – including yourself – starts here
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. True chemistry results.
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.
Lessons in Chemistry is the debut release from London based former copywriter/creative director Bonnie Garmus. An exemplary tale that looks at sexism, science and cooking, Garmus has produced a newfangled read that is deserving of the high praise it has received.
Elizabeth Zott is the unforgettable lead protagonist of Bonnie Garmus’ first novel, Lessons in Chemistry. Elizabeth knows she is not a normal woman and she is happy with the fact that she does not bow down to society’s norms. But Elizabeth exists in a man’s world, which has made her job as a research assistant at the Hastings Institute challenging. There is only person at the Hastings Institute who accepts Elizabeth unconditionally, a brilliant scientist who plays by his own rules. When Calvin and Elizabeth connect, their hearts and minds are set alight. But life has other plans for these scientists and Elizabeth finds herself in an unusual position years after meeting Calvin. Now the star of a cooking show, Elizabeth juggles single parenthood with her television hosting duties. Soon Elizabeth becomes a household name thanks to her unusual but practical approach to cooking. Elizabeth’s revolutionary show begins to challenge and inspire women around the country, making many unhappy with her power. Will Elizabeth achieve all she set out to do in life?
Lessons in Chemistry was awarded the title of Dymocks Book of the Year in November 2022 and this literary merit encouraged me to finally access Bonnie Garmus’ novel on the Audible platform. It did take me a little bit of time to become one hundred percent committed to Lessons in Chemistry, but once I fell for this one, I fell hard.
I’m a huge fan of Mad Men and I actually really miss this show, so Lessons in Chemistry appealed to me as it reminded me a lot of this fantastic television series. However, Don Draper has been replaced with a much better hero, Elizabeth Zott. Blunt, astute, unique and revolutionary, I loved getting to know Elizabeth. Lessons in Chemistry is a great character journey novel and I really admired Elizabeth’s tenacity. I also felt incredibly sorry for Elizabeth and the other female characters featured in this unapparelled story. These female stories echo many regrettable encounters that occurred at this time. It’s important that we learn about and share experiences such as Elizabeth’s in regards to sexual discrimination and assault in the workplace, as well as the higher education system. Heartfelt, real and impassioned, I learnt so much about the science and research world from the knowing gaze of an educated woman.
Not only does Garmus recreate 1950s and 1960s America extremely well, she also fills her highly engaging novel with some larger-than-life characters. From the magnetic Calvin Harris, the truly amazing Six-Thirty the dog, Elizabeth’s inquisitive daughter Madeline, her long-suffering boss Walter, supportive neighbour Harriet and finally an enemy in arms Miss Frask, Lessons in Chemistry features a wonderful cast. The narration by Miranda Raison was brilliant and drew me right in to Elizabeth’s world. With coverage around research, chemistry, plagiarism, sexual assault, domestic violence, pregnancy out of wedlock, discrimination, death, education and a focus on the benefits of rowing, there is so much to enjoy in this one. I was initially a little afraid of the science references as I didn’t do so well in chemistry at school, but don’t worry if you have this fear too, Lessons in Chemistry is very accessible. I loved the close of Lessons in Chemistry, it was perfect.
An unparalleled read that came out tops for me, I can’t wait to see what author Bonnie Garmus will produce next, it’s sure to be winner just like Lessons in Chemistry.
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus was published on 29th March 2022 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus, visit here.