Cover Image: Lessons in Chemistry

Lessons in Chemistry

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Member Reviews

Elizabeth Zott has struggled against sexism all her life, she is a brilliant chemist but everyone from her college lecturers to her colleagues at Hastings Research Institute seem to think she's more interested in snagging a husband than cutting-edge chemistry research. As the only woman in the team she is expected to make the coffees, bring equipment to the male scientists and clear up after them, despite being more intelligent and having more insightful research. The only exception is the equally gifted enfant terrible Calvin Evans, Hastings' Noble prize winning chemist, all the other chemists hate him but the two of them fall in love.

Fast forward a few years and Elizabeth is a single mother to an equally gifted daughter, unable to get a job as a research chemist at Hastings, she has somehow been offered a job presenting a daytime cookery show for housewives, but Elizabeth refuses to kowtow to the network's sexist ideas about how she should look, how the set should look, or even what she should say. She's teaching cookery as chemistry.

See that describes the book, and yet it doesn't. There's a whole tragic, almost French farce surrounding Calvin's past which the reader guesses at, but could have changed his whole life if things had gone differently. The style sort of reminded of The World According to Garp, maybe it's just because I rarely read a book written entirely from the view of a third party narrator, but it also had that slightly surreal element to it, especially when we hear Elizabeth's dog's thoughts.

Kooky and quirky don't really hit the mark. I wouldn't say it was loud-out-loud funny, more mildly amusing with a dark underbelly. All of the main characters have something terrible happen(ing) in their lives. Most of the ancillary male characters are just plain awful, and the women aren't much better.

It was slow to start and the unemotional delivery took some getting used to, yet, by the end, I really enjoyed it. Very different.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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This is a quirky book but one that I took to immediately. Elizabeth Zott is a feminist from the word go and in 1960's male dominated society she is a force to be reckoned with. All her life issues are solved logically with her chemist roots at its heart. I have already recommended it to my book group.
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House UK for the advance copy.
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This is such an engaging and wonderful read.  Elizabeth Zott is a brilliant chemist, but this is the 1960s and she’s expected to assist in the lab, helping the men until she becomes a wife and homemaker.  She refuses to consider those possibilities and encounters sexism and misogyny in her struggle to have her work taken seriously.  She meets her match in Calvin Evans, a scientist who works in her department.  Despite being in love, she continues to flout societal expectations, refusing to take a back seat to any man. 
With her dog, Six-thirty, and her daughter, Mad, and neighbour, Harriet, our heroine confronts sexism, misogyny, and grief and starts a new career as a presenter of a TV cookery show, bringing chemistry to food preparation and enthusing a whole generation of women with a love of science.
This book is funny, moving and unputdownable.   I loved it.
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Elizabeth Zott is a brilliant chemist, but it's the 1960s and she's constantly under-estimated. Women in chemistry departments are there to be secretaries, to be patronised, hit on and dismissed as unworthy - or grateful to be noticed at all. Then Calvin Evans notices her after she helps herself to beakers in his lab, and they're a brilliant match. It's not a romance though, it's a story of a brilliant woman over-coming sexism and other issues to be herself, and it's also very funny.

Elizabeth ends up a single mother with a TV cooking show - except she's not just talking about food. She's talking about chemistry and the opportunities women have, encouraging them to take time for themselves (shout out for Marjorie, off to pre-med school), to think in different ways. And she's gone from a lone woman with no friends, to having a support network, including the dog, Six-Thirty - who may be one of my favourite characters. Elizabeth's daughter Mad is a great character as well, the product of two brilliant parents who helps to bring about the ending. The ending did feel a little too neat, but the book was a joy to read.
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Wonderfully quirky. Took me back in time with a love story set back in the days when women were definitely second class citizens. Elizabeth Zott is a great character but Mad and Six-Thirty stole my heart! Thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, the only disappointment was when I finished the last page.
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Just wow - where do I even start to explain how good this book is?  

Elizabeth Zott is a chemist and an unmarried mother living in the 1960’s. 

When she loses her job and becomes a reluctant television star by accident, she shares her feminist views with her audience of housewives. Honest and straight talking, funny without even realising it - what an amazing character Bonnie Garmus has created. I laughed and cried in equal measures as she brought Elizabeth to life with words.

I absolutely loved this book, as it explored the sexist and racist attitudes of the times and how Elizabeth tried to change people’s perceptions and outlook through her programme ‘Supper at Six’.

The author also introduces us to a cast of fabulous characters, including her lover Calvin, neighbour Harriet, her daughter Mad, her producer Walter Pine and her highly intelligent dog, Six-Thirty.

This is definitely going to be a best seller and I’ve already recommended it to many.

With many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for this arc in exchange for an honest review.
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A brilliant concept lies at the heart of this book and the best scenes by far are when Elizabeth is recording her cooking/chemistry show. I loved the characters and thought the tone was light and fun throughout. It does take quite a while to get into as too much attention is given to the rather melodramatic backstory but overall it’s an enjoyable read.
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Protagonist Elizabeth Zott is straight-talking and determined to tell the truth at any cost. She fights to educate her ‘Supper at Six’ viewers, not only in cooking and chemistry, but also in life; empowering them to look at society around them, identify inequality, and demand change. Her allies come in the forms of men and women, adults and children, and even Six-Thirty her dog. She constantly battles adversity throughout the book to make an impact against a misogynistic society and does not hold back when challenged. The book is written in a very matter-of-fact style, which is enriched by the quirkiness and vulnerability of its characters. Lessons in Chemistry is a heart-warming Feminist tale full of hope.
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Very unexpected book choice for me based mostly on the cover but it's what's inside that made it one of the best books I've read. It was so different but so thought provoking, it will stay with me for a long time. Elizabeth, exceptional woman, living in 60s when being a woman of her own mind, isn't exactly favourable has become one of my favourite characters of all time. This book was so sad and so infuriating but made me laugh at times and I can say, it just had everything!
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Elizabeth Zott is a force to be reckoned with in 1960s America, determined to succeed in the male dominated science world, and everywhere else! Funny and inspiring, I enjoyed every bit of this book.
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This was a surprising, funny and heartfelt story. I’m so glad I got to read it! Elizabeth Zott is a person that doesn’t fit in, she can’t be put into any stereotypical box and won’t behave as women are expected to…and because of that, she’s awesome. She is a scientist in the 1960’s, dealing with examples of misogyny and bullying that are still so tiresomely familiar today. As you can imagine, this takes its toll on her mentally but she keeps trying to move forward in her own ways. Her life throws her a number of curveballs too, but it also gives her Mad (her daughter) and Six-Thirty (her dog) to help her through it all and they are both great partners to have by your side. She is also befriended by her neighbour, Harriet, and they build a relationship that is nourishing for each of them for very different reasons. 
The writing was so engaging, I found that I couldn’t stop reading. There are laugh-out-loud lines, mostly from Six-Thirty who is probably my favourite character, sitting right beside heartbreaking moments that burrow deep inside you. It’s quirky but not in a novelty way - more in the way that real life is often bizarre. It tells a love story in a very practical, but still hugely emotional and relatable, way.
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Brilliant! An original and refreshing novel, that introduces a fabulous character in Elizabeth Zott. I flew through this book, eating up every page and cheering on the characters. A true feminist novel with a truly awe inspiring heroine. Whilst fictional I'm quite sure it's not an unusual story for its time and it is women like Elizabeth Zott who paved the way for modern women to step out from their kitchens and take their place in the wider world, though we still have a long way to go for true equality. I would recommend this book to anyone, it is a joy to read and you will carry the characters with you for a long time.
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Wonderfully written story of someone whose strength and intelligence would be obvious to everyone in a rational world. However, it's set in 1950s USA, and the protagonist is a female scientist, so a) her occupation marks her as "odd", and b) the zeitgeist fosters the view that she can't really be as good as the men. She's also a single, unmarried mother, raising a precocious and wonderful child.

Although there is a tendency to discount the prejudices as typical of their time, I couldn't help feeling as I got further into the book, that, if I were to be subjected to such discrimination, it would feel like a terrible psychic brutality. Imagine having your entire existence discounted because of biological aspects that should have no bearing on how others see your competence. 

It's an awful burden to bear, but, luckily for the reader, Elizabeth Zott somehow manages to retain her integrity in the face of a world that can't even see it, and her struggles become a glorious celebration of the free human spirit. 

There is something tremendously lovable and human (as human SHOULD be) in every character she draws to her side - even the dog ( who also fights for recognition - he's a great dog). Uplifting is too weak a word for this joyous celebration of a human spirit heading into combat with an adversary establishment.

Thank you, Bonnie Garmus, for a splendid literary creation and for lighting yet another candle in the hopefully -thinning darkness. This is a book full of humour, soul, and life. ( and I felt every emotion from rage to spreading it). Very highly recommended.
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What a great book. Elizabeth Zott is a great character - a feminist in every sense of the word. I loved her actions, reactions and her attempts at beating the patriarchs. Read it and get to know Elizabeth Zott. And Six-Thirty, he's really special With thanks to NetGalley, the publishers and the author for an e-ARC of this title to read and review.
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It's 1961 and Elizabeth Zott has just started work as a presenter of a TV cookery show. She bitterly resents this as she is a chemist, thwarted by the institutional sexism and misogyny of the time. It's depressing to think that we're still fighting some of the same battles. Hands up those women who have had a male colleague plagiarise or steal their work or who have had to fight off unwanted sexual approaches or who were denied opportunities in education or at work because of their sex.. Zott is firmly on your side. She is a single parent with a brilliant daughter Madeleine whose intelligent questions are too much for her teacher. We travel back ten years to when Elizabeth met her soulmate, Owen Calvert, a brilliant young scientist on track to win a Nobel Prize. The story of their relationship follows along wth the circumstances which lead Elizabeth to lose her job. But Elizabeth is resourceful and determined and she fights to be taken seriously and in doing so ends up having a profound effect on the lives of other women.  

I haven't done justice to the book in this brief resume as it makes the book sound rather dull and it is anything but. Zott is a fantastic character who will live on in your mind along with her fantastic dog, Six-Thirty.  I absolutely loved this book. I've read and reviewed well over a hundred books this year and this is my favourite. I'll be recommending it to everyone I meet and can't wait to buy it when it comes out.  A massive thank you to Penguin Books and NetGalley for the ARC.
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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.
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“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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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