Book Review: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

About the Book:

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.

Published by Penguin Random House Australia

Released March 2022

My Thoughts:

“I fell in love with Calvin,” she was saying, “because he was intelligent and kind, but also because he was the very first man to take me seriously. Imagine if all men took women seriously. Education would change. The workforce would revolutionize. Marriage counsellors would go out of business. Do you see my point?”

If ever there was a book worthy of its many ‘book of the year’ accolades, this is it. I loved Lessons in Chemistry. The characters (6.30!), the story, the way it slipped with ease between perspectives, even the short chapters which gave the story a feeling of momentum and also made you want to just keep reading and reading right until the end. There are very few books that I feel like I want to keep reading once they’re done, but the ending for Lessons in Chemistry, while perfect, left me also wanting more. I am thrilled to discover that it has been adapted into a TV series that should be releasing later this year.

“I’m referring to atoms and molecules, Roth,” she explained. “The real rules the govern the physical world. When women understand these basic concepts, they can begin to see the false limits that have been created for them.”

“You mean by men.”

“I mean by artificial cultural and religious policies that put men in the highly unnatural role of single-sex leadership. Even a basic understanding of chemistry reveals the danger of such a lopsided approach.”

Sharply intelligent, Lessons in Chemistry is feminist and funny without being overtly preaching. At times, Elizabeth Zott felt a little bit too contemporary for her 1960s setting, but this is a very minor detail that didn’t affect how much I loved this novel. What I loved most was Elizabeth’s principles, she never wavered, even when life kept derailing her at every turn. Such an aspirational character. The supporting characters were all equally as good, some in surprisingly subtle ways.

“Like most stupid people, Mr. Sloane wasn’t smart enough to know just how stupid he was.”

I laughed out loud so many times throughout this novel, it sparks with humour, particularly within the scenes of dialogue. Bonnie Garmus is an excellent author. I won’t hesitate to read any future novels by her. Lessons in Chemistry was a book club read for me and we all enjoyed it. Highly recommended reading, I’m giving this one five stars!

11 thoughts on “Book Review: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s