12 February, 2024

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus - [Book Review]

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Book Details:

Title: Lessons in Chemistry

Author: Bonnie Garmus

Genre: Women Fiction, Literary fiction

Publisher: Doubleday

Print length: 400 pages

Source: A copy from local library


#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • GMA BOOK CLUB PICK • Meet Elizabeth Zott: “a gifted research chemist, absurdly self-assured and immune to social convention” (The Washington Post) in 1960s California whose career takes a detour when she becomes the unlikely star of a beloved TV cooking show. • STREAM ON APPLE TV+

This novel is “irresistible, satisfying and full of fuel” (The New York Times Book Review) and “witty, sometimes hilarious...the Catch-22 of early feminism” (Stephen King, via Twitter).

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, Oprah Daily, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek

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.

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My Review:

This is the story of Ms. Elizabeth Zott, one of the very few women scientists / chemists in 1960s in California. It is interesting to read about women in that time period, their challenges to raise above patriarchy.

Ms. Zott revolts against all the societal norms of those days. While women studying and researching is rare in those days, they were not given importance in research field even though they prove to be worthy. It is like struggle at each step of her life. She overcomes it with a big of arrogance and sometimes, ignorance.

When Calvin Evans, a bright scientist becomes her partner, she sees the bright side of her life. She feels happy to having been considered as an equal to a man for the first time. But, Calvin dies leaving her pregnant. With just dog as her companion and with the help of her good neighbor Mrs.Harriet, she manages to raise her child Madeline.

After Calvin dies, she is fired from her job and she had to work in a TV cooking show to make ends meet. Her attitude, her knowledge in Chemistry make the show 'Supper at Six' unique and a hit. Will she get back to her research? Will her daughter Madeline dig about her father's past? What are those important things in Calvin's past that made him a great scientist? The details are in the climax.

What is great?

The freedom of expression and being highly opinionated for women in 1960s is not much heard of. So, when Ms. Zott expresses her opinions about being atheist,  her feminist ideas, her passion for chemistry, it is unbelievable and admirable. 

It takes courage to express yourselves when the whole world thinks you are wrong. I like that part in this book.

I like how a simple cooking show can inspire a lot of women. This book seems like written in 1960s with the thoughts of current generation. This might be one of the reasons why it became popular.

The narrative is good, and relatable. I loved the book cover and the title is very apt indeed.

What might have been great?

I couldn't understand Ms.Zott's ignorance or lack of awareness about pregnancy. Especially being a scientist, she should have known about this more than anyone. Those times during her pregnancy, doctor checkups and her labor - I cannot believe the way she takes it all easy.

I understand that Ms.Zott is straight forward and highly opinionated, which is fine. But, I couldn't imagine how she would have lived in such a society with that kind of attitude. I couldn't relate to such character really.

This is a great women's fiction and feminist novel. I would recommend this to all book lovers who love such fiction.

My Rating: 5/5

About the Author:

Bonnie Garmus is a copywriter and creative director who has worked for a wide range of clients, in the US and abroad, focusing primarily on technology, medicine, and education. She’s an open water swimmer, a rower, and mother to two pretty amazing daughters. Most recently from Seattle, she currently lives in London with her husband and her dog, 99.

Until next time,

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