Lessons in Chemistry turned up on the NetGalley shelf. I’m so glad I requested it — and the publishers approved me! This ticks so many boxes it’s a shame it couldn’t be included either in the Alphabet Soup or SpaceTime Reads challenges. But it’s right up my street!

lessons in chemistry bonnie garmus

Lessons in Chemistry

by Bonnie Garmus

Set in 1960s California, this blockbuster debut is the hilarious, idiosyncratic and uplifting story of a female scientist whose career is constantly derailed by the idea that a woman’s place is in the home, only to find herself starring as the host of America’s most beloved TV cooking show.

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 1960s and despite the fact that she is a scientist, her peers are very unscientific when it comes to equality. The only good thing to happen to her on the road to professional fulfillment is a run-in with her super-star colleague Calvin Evans (well, she stole his beakers.) The only man who ever treated her-and her ideas-as equal, Calvin is already a legend and Nobel nominee. He’s also awkward, kind and tenacious. Theirs is true chemistry. But as events are never as predictable as chemical reactions, three years later Elizabeth Zott is an unwed, single mother (did we mention it’s the early 60s??) and the star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six.

Elizabeth’s singular approach to cooking (‘take one pint of H2O and add a pinch of sodium chloride’) and independent example are proving revolutionary. Because Elizabeth isn’t just teaching women how to cook, she’s teaching them how 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. [goodreads]

My Review

As I reread the blurb, I think: this is the first blurb I’ve read for years that is accurate, not overblown, and where I completely agree with its final tagline.

I read this book in two sittings. Not because I wanted to stop, but I wanted it to last longer. They were long sittings, but I really did want to turn the page to find out what awful/amazing/gut-wrenching thing was going to happen next.

I may have been a teen in the 1960s, but this really was what women had to put up with. The memories flood back of all the put-downs, the ‘you can’t do that, you’re a woman’ and the whole male-driven society that stole women’s brainwork and passed it off as their own. Professors still do that in some universities, but now they are merely the lead name on the papers of their students or tutees, or sub-professors.

And having just finished Yinka, I realise that yes, I do know what discrimination is like, and I have been fighting it for years, so my worries about not being able to empathise with people of colour is totally unfounded. You should have tried to be a career woman before the Thatcher revolution of the Eighties.

You have probably realised by now that the writing is luminescent, the plot twisty and turny, and with several unexpected loops. The characters are brilliantly drawn, especially Six-Thirty (you’ll have to read it).

In fact, you HAVE to read it. Believe me, you don’t want to miss this one, even if you’re only 20 now.

And I learnt a lot about chemistry 🙂

Book Review | Lessons in Chemistry… is as original and vibrant as its protagonist. For once, the blurb does not lie. Luminescent. The only reason to put it down is to make it last longer. #netgalley #LessonsinChemistry Share on X

Book Review | Lessons in Chemistry @BonnieGarmus
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9 thoughts on “Book Review | Lessons in Chemistry @BonnieGarmus

  • 2 April, 2022 at 2:23 pm

    Really interesting, Jemima. I graduated from a women’s college in the mid 60s and was in science. Been there, lived it!

  • 2 April, 2022 at 3:03 pm

    Thanks for the cool book review. It sounds like an interesting read.

    I’m doing the #AtoZChallenge – writing a speculative fiction short story.
    On the main A to Z site today for B I shared a list of books. Check it out!
    At Operation Awesome we’re doing the A to Z Challenge and running a survey to pick the next Pass or Pages query contest genre.

    • 6 April, 2022 at 4:15 pm

      Good luck with your A to Z this year, J. You must be insanely busy (even though I know you’ve written all your main posts in advance)

  • 4 April, 2022 at 1:45 pm

    Wow! What an interesting perspective!?

  • 5 April, 2022 at 2:54 pm

    I will definitely have to read this one! I missed the worst of the “women can’t do that” era, but it was still there for my growing up. It still is there, alas, though usually less openly spoken.

  • Pingback:Book Review | The Physicists' Daughter by @maryannaevans - Jemima Pett

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