Cover Image: Lessons in Chemistry

Lessons in Chemistry

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Impossible to give a brief summary of this book other than a tribute to the intelligence, hard work and resilience of women.
Set in the 1960s when there was no such thing as women’s rights, Elizabeth Zott was an incredibly intelligent and independent chemist working towards her PhD. But thwarted by her Head of department she was forced to leave, and without the qualification struggled to be accepted as an equal in research labs. Although part of that struggle was society’s attitude towards women at the time.
Giving birth to a daughter out of wedlock and shortly after the death of the baby’s Father, Elizabeth was forced to make a living by whatever means she could. She ended up on an afternoon  TV show ostensibly about cooking but in reality a call to arms to all women to realise their dreams.
Elizabeth was supported by her faithful dog, who saved her life on more than one occasion, and her daughter. Nearly everyone else let her down.
Elizabeth is an amazing character. If we think that 60 years on we still do not have equality we can appreciate the barriers Elizabeth was fighting in the 1960s. At approaching the end of this year this is my favourite adult title.
Was this review helpful?
“In short, the reduction of women to something less than men, and the elevation of men to something more than women, is not biological, it’s cultural. And it starts with two words: pink and blue. Everything skyrockets out of control from there” 


Can we say banger? 

Lessons in Chemistry is set in the 1950s and 60s, and follows the bewitching, uncompromising Elizabeth Zott. A trained chemist – though without the academic credentials – Elizabeth causes ructions wherever she goes. But when she gets a chance opportunity to host a cooking show on local television, Elizabeth becomes a bona-fide celebrity. 

Read if you like: 
-	Uncompromising, difficult women 
-	Historical fiction 
-	Mad Men 
-	Idiosyncratic dogs

This book is partly a character study of a woman who refuses to fit into boxes - Elizabeth Zott is a wonder – extremely competent and constantly enraged by a culture that prevents her from reaching her true potential. She’s exciting and a little mysterious, and it’s a testament to Garmus’ skill as a writer that she never feels archetypal. Garmus has also created a colourful supporting cast – most strikingly, Elizabeth’s dog, who narrates parts of the book as well as having numerous plot functions. It’s a strange little book, equal parts angry and funny, and I was totally swept up in it. By the ending, I felt like I’d made a firm friend in Elizabeth Zott, and was sad to say goodbye to her. 

Lessons in Chemistry has a satisfyingly knotty plot, too, however, and though sexism permeates the narrative, it never fully drags Elizabeth – or the reader – down. Garmus is frank about the difficulties women faced in a pre-Betty Friedan America, from well-meaning men telling them to dress differently to violent assaults, though thankfully the latter only happens once. 

This is a wonderful and strange little book, equal parts angry and funny, and I was totally swept up in it. By the ending, I felt like I’d made a firm friend in Elizabeth Zott, and was sad to say goodbye to her. Lessons in Chemistry is released in April 2022 and I think we’ll all be making pals with the spectacular Elizabeth Zott.
Was this review helpful?
Just my cup of tea! Modern, witty and fresh!

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for letting me access an advance copy of this book in exchange for my feedback.
Was this review helpful?
Lessons In Chemistry is an absolute belter, I loved everything about it. Elizabeth Zott is a heroine for all time. It made me laugh, it made me cry, there is a dog who knows more words than I do. 
Elizabeth Zott is a chemist in 1960’s California but is hampered by the fact that she is also a woman. If this was not bad enough she is also good looking. No one takes her seriously. Elizabeth takes EVERYTHING seriously. Then she meets famous, superstar chemist, unattractive but not exactly ugly Calvin Evans. He takes her seriously, he takes her very seriously. They have chemistry. They fall in love. Tragedy happens and through a series of unfortunate events Elizabeth finds herself becoming a popular tv cook. She hates it. 
Elizabeth Zott is brilliant, she takes no shit, she functions at constant low level rage, she builds a lab in her kitchen when heavily pregnant, she ergs, she makes coffee with a Bunsen burner. It is impossible not to love her.
Was this review helpful?
Well this is fun - smart, sassy and laugh out loud funny with plenty of pathos and heart to match, it's easy to see why Lessons in Chemistry has been generating all the buzz. Garmus has created a suite of wonderful characters and presented them with so much pace and timing even the clearly sign-posted 'surprises' are delivered with great vim and charm. Delightful.
Was this review helpful?
A joyful ride through marriage, career and motherhood through the eyes of the unique and uncompromising Elizabeth Zott. She lives life on her own terms and faces the twists and turns of her life as a chemist, a wife, a mother, and an unwitting TV star with humour (sometimes unintended), strength and bravado. Lessons In Chemistry is a fast-paced page-turner and Elizabeth Zott is the mother/friend/colleague/feminist we all aspire to be - if we're bold enough.
Was this review helpful?
Lessons in Chemistry charts the path of Elizabeth Zott and her attempts to do the thing she loves (Chemistry) in a world of 1960s America where all the rules on gender are not in her favour. Luckily she’s not interested in following rules - in relationships, work or parenting - so she wins out in the end. An enjoyable journey
Was this review helpful?
A fantastic 4.5*. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus is an incredible debut with zing and a massive heart. A book that is getting a lot of chatter and it is hugely deserved. 

Elizabeth Zott is a scientist in 1960s America. Long before the days of STEM, equality and inclusion her struggles take her from a laboratory based role to becoming the star of a TV cooking show. However, Elizabeth is no Julia Child or Delia Smith - she does things her own way. 

Lessons in Chemistry is crammed full of hard hitting topics, yet the humour, warmth and prose allow the reader to zip along a fully immersive journey. Packed with a cast of hugely memorable characters, it’s a delight from start to finish. 

With thanks to Doubleday, Penguin Random House and Netgalley for an ARC.
Was this review helpful?
This is the story of Elizabeth Zott, who complained about sex discrimination before such a concept was widely known, and always tended to see things logically, and could not see why most people were hidebound by their assigned gender roles, and, above all she was a scientist. The story is funny and moving, a must read. Thank you to netgalley and the publishers for giving me a copy of the book, I really enjoyed it and would heartily recommend it.
Was this review helpful?
This book was so unique and I loved that about it. It was funny but at the same time it had some serious themes, especially about women and their role in society and what is the "norm". I loved Elizabeth, she was not one to suffer fools. She had me completely besotted and caring about her and her daughter, Mad. I was sucked into their lives.

The cooking show idea really brought the story to life and I was totally immersed the entire time I was reading this book. There is just so much to love about it. It is funny, romantic, sweet and inspiring. This was such a beautifully written, perfect debut. This is an author I am putting on my one to watch list. All. The. Stars.
Was this review helpful?
Oh how I loved Lessons in Chemistry, and oh how I loved Elizabeth Zott - and so too will the rest of the world when they meet her on publication day.

Lessons in Chemistry is the story of Elizabeth Zott, a woman scientist in the late 1950s, and how her work and home life is a constant battle against workplace and academic misogyny, gender inequality and societal expectations. Because this is an age when women are paid less than men for the same work, are seen as fair game for sexual predators, are constantly under-estimated and disrespected, and where the women’s place is most definitely seen as being in the home, warming her husband’s dinner and his slippers ready for his heroic return from work. 

Avoiding major plot spoilers, Elizabeth’s career path as a scientist takes an unexpected turn when she falls in love with Calvin and is further re-routed when she takes alternative employment in the world of TV, where her love of science and cooking leads her to become America’s most popular TV chef.

Being an iconoclast, and a feminist to boot, the uncompromising and indomitable Elizabeth takes every battle in her stride, and she rises above every setback and challenge, with her trademark wit, and her fearsome logic and intellect. 

She practices what she preaches too: she firmly believes, and demonstrates, that ‘Your ability to change everything - including yourself - starts here', and in fighting her own battles she also empowers all the other women she meets, and providing a positive role model for her young daughter Madeline and neighbour, Harriet.

Whilst the story explores the weighty themes of misogyny and gender inequality it is a far from heavy read and the story is told with a great deal of wit, comedy, and humour. 
There is so much humour, warmth, and quirkiness which is really appealing and endearing, and it really draws the reader in. This is combined with a great plot and a brilliant cast of characters who are all well-drawn and well developed. I even loved the alternative point of view on the story brought by Six Thirty, the dog, who is surely destined to become one of the best-loved dogs in 21st Century fiction.

Lessons in Chemistry is an absolutely brilliant read and I didn’t want it to end  - and when you do finish it you find yourself wishing there was a whole series, so that you could read more about Elizabeth and her world.
This is one of those books that you will want recommend to everyone you meet. I absolutely loved it, and I am incredibly grateful to Bonnie Garmus and Doubleday for an ARC in return for an unbiased and honest review.
Was this review helpful?
If I could give this book 20 stars, I would. It’s got the humour I loved from The Big Bang Theory mixed with a dose of smart feminist awesomeness that I just gobbled up.
In truth, I didn’t know what to expect when I requested this book. I’ve had a tough year and wanted a pick-me-up sort of read, but didn’t think a comedy could make me feel smarter as a reader as I turned the pages. 
Each character was fully formed and complex, and I was deeply invested in Elizabeth (and would have totally watched her show). The cast is full of gems and I won’t say more about them as I don’t want to give away any spoilers but, trust me, you’ll be praying this book is the first of a series because of devour more of it. 
Nothing was missing from this story, there were laughs to be had, the stings of injustices to be felt and comfort to be gained. I felt empowered reading this and couldn’t believe a book that packs such a punch could be so funny. It really is a unique reading experience and one I would strongly recommend. I’ve read an advance copy and have already pre-ordered the hardback as I know I’ll read it again and again. 

Huge thanks to the author, Bonnie Garmus, and publisher, Transworld,  for this exquisite advance review copy. Views my own. 5*
Was this review helpful?
Quite a different book, set in a different era. Well researched with a real feel of the 1960’s. The heroine is a quirky character with very definite views of life and what she wants. The book was witty and sad all at the same time, an excellent read
Was this review helpful?
I’m a self-confessed historical fiction addict. Give me anything Victorian or older and I’m a happy bunny. So I was not sure about whether I would like a story about a female chemist in 1960s America. I had never understood how women, after basically “running the show” during WWII, would have meekly retreated into their domestic boxes after the war. 
Right from the start, I was fascinated by Elizabeth Zott: A brilliant scientist, with shades of Dr Beverly Hofstadter, fighting her corner in the world of misogynistic academia, she is battling with the over-familiarity of superiors, the inequality of career prospects and pay, the constant innuendo of jealous colleagues and the expectancy of where a woman’s place is. 
Elizabeth parries all with equanimity, with unwitting wit, a sharp intellect and the clinical logic of a scientist. And in this unlikeIiest of environments, she finds love. So, will she and her soulmate ride off into the sunset together or has fate prepared a spanner for her that none of her clever formulas can solve?
A fabulously constructed clever romp through philosophy, cookery and chemistry with a fair bit of rowing thrown in!
Was this review helpful?
Chemistry and cooking. Quirky unexpected and a whole lot of fun. Uses quirky scientific fact to really talk about women's role in society and whole other host of subjects. Even you know nothing at all about science in any way shape or form this is going to make sense. A whole lot of sense, And you're going to be glad you read it.
Was this review helpful?
Brilliant, haven't read a book like it! I particularly like how strong the misogyny is, so strong that you can see how ridiculous the prejudice is, even in small doses.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you, thank you to Doubleday for giving me an ARC of this simply wonderful book. It’s the story of chemist, Elizabeth Zott as she navigates her way through life as a scientist in the late 1950s and early 1960s. And it’s told with so much warmth and humour that you instantly engage with her and her struggles as she finds herself hosting a TV cookery show in her own inimitable way. A true feminist icon claiming her place in a man’s world, empowering other women to follow their own dreams. It didn’t just ring true, it clanged true with me, I loved the constantly fluctuating POVs, particularly Six-Thirty’s (the dog). I was literally in tears at the end, because the greatest lesson in this wonderful novel is the absolute power of women supporting each other through life. It really is the only way to fight the patriarchy. ‘Chemistry is change.’ Loved it, loved it, loved it.
Was this review helpful?
From the very first page right to the final words of this book, I was totally absorbed, hooked by the story of Elizabeth Zott, Madeleine, Calvin Evans and Six-Thirty the dog. It’s a book I already know that I will go back and re-read and which will become a favourite go-to on my shelves at home.

Elizabeth Zott is a scientist who becomes famous as the star of TV cookery show Supper At Six, who doesn’t fit the Sixties norm, who rebels against the misogyny and prejudice of those around her and whose uncompromising, unconventional (for the time) views really rang true for me. That last sentence sounds as though it’s a hectoring feminist tome but it absolutely isn’t, it’s warm and funny and sweeps you along on her journey. Every single one of the characters came to life on the page and Elizabeth’s determination, focus and drive touched my heart.  

I honestly don’t want to spoil your reading experience by revealing very much more except to say that this book is so beautifully written, with such heart and humour, that I am in absolute awe of Bonnie Garmus as a writer. Lessons in Chemistry deserves to be a huge, huge success.
Was this review helpful?
The most powerful book I’ve read lately; real and without tabus, brilliant.
I’ll admit that I was intrigued with this book, I really didn’t know much about the plot but as a scientist I couldn’t resist reading it. And I don’t have words to say how much I loved it, powerful and direct, impossible to not love it.
This is the story of the chemist Elizabeth Zott; she is an intelligent and brave woman. Impossible to not fall in love with her story and want to know what will happen next! The book doesn’t have an open ending, but I would love to know more about her, her daughter and her dog, Six Thirty!
I don’t think this is a book you should know the plot before reading it, just let the story flow and become a Zott fan, I am surprised that there’s not yet a fan page!
This is a book everyone should read, men and women, it states some facts that we all should accept. Because even if this can seem like a feminist book, it’s not really, it simply shows that men and women have not ever been treated equally. But you know what enraged me? This book is based on the 1960s and the scientist world is exactly the same. It really hasn’t changed at all; women are abused, ignored, mistreated and misrepresented the same. Can you believe it? 60 years have passed in the story of this book, but the world has not changed at all, don’t you get mad too?
This is a book about friendship, family, love and science, a must read!
Ready to discover “Lessons in Chemistry”?
Was this review helpful?
Elizabeth Zott is a chemist, despite what the men of the 1960s think. A brilliant character and a powerful story about not taking no for an answer. Thanks to NetGalley for ARC
Was this review helpful?