Cover Image: Lessons in Chemistry

Lessons in Chemistry

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Member Reviews

An absolutely wonderful book. I thought the end was a little silly and that the benefactor would have tried harder but overall it was brilliant and I am in love with EZ.
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I really wanted to like this book. THe story seemed fascinating, and sadly still relevant-the difficulties of women being taken seriously in STEM, a change of career, and the difficulties of having it all. In the 50s! THe book started off very well, and Garmus doesn't pull her punches about the discrimination women faced, the near-constant objectification, the danger of sexual assault and the improbability of justice being served. I found the characters well-written, and the story gripping, till around 50% of the book, when it started becoming tedious, and the protagonist, Elizabeth, comes across as a self-righteous prig. The book then unfortunately turns into one of those "not like other girls" books, while also preaching against discrimination against women. Garmus seems to actively dislike women apart from her impossibly beautiful, genius protagonist with a genius daughter who reads Nabokov and Mailer at 5 ( also, interesting that the protagonist doesn't mind her daughter reading Mailer while she rails against misogyny and how racist The Mikado is-didn't know Mailer was that acceptable to proto-feminists. ). For all the virtue signalling attitudes Elizabeth harangues the reader with, and all the supposedly profound literature her daughter reads, her only reference to anything remotely involving BIPOC characters is "Five days with the Congo cannibals'. Of course. How incredibly inclusive of her . None of the women characters are particularly well-written, they all fall into tropes: gossip, the vindictive one who has a change of heart, the lonely neighbour who's really a saint and provides ELizabeth with unpaid childcare. ELizabeth gets a job hosting a cooking show, and manages to be incredibly condescending to housewives, while also preaching about the value of housework. THis is presented to the reader as a devastating come-down for her, a genius chemist-however, this isn't really a bad option since she seems to get to pretty much run the show the way she chooses, and not just use chemistry while she's at it, but communicate her love of it to a wider audience, and get paid much better than she did as an underpaid researcher. Most other women wouldn't even have been given this option-Black women in the 50s, for instance. I expected the book to explore the nascent TV production industry in the 50s, the effect of  a new medium and how the people involved navigated it, and in some cases, how those decisions had influences that lasted till today. It was also a time when there were several women TV producers, and writers ( Madelyn Pugh being amongst the most well-known, of I love Lucy fame)-I expected the book to name-drop some of them and for them to be instrumental in ELizabeth's career but strangely enough, for a book that's so preachy about feminism, not a word about it, no even about Lucille Ball or Julia Child as an inspiration! The book also had some mixed messaging- ELizabeth exhorts women to not pull each other down, be constrained by stereotypes, go out and get what they wanted and so on, but it's not as easy as that-there are systemic issues for why women are still under-represented in the workforce and fields such as STEM. Garmus makes it seem like ELizabeth was the only feminist doing anything at all or trying to empower women, and it's all tell, and not show-I'm not sure someone shouting at me to do better when I'm already exhausted is going to motivate me. I'm not sure about the point of multiple tragic backstories for each other characters either-they all seem to exist only to help Elizabeth and none of the other characters are fully formed, or even properly developed in their own right, apart from given trauma in their past-that isn't sufficient as a character arc. The ending provided more eye-rolling opportunities, and I was only too glad it ended. SUch a disappointment-my rating went for 5 solid stars till the halfway mark, when it went so downhill that it's now barely a 1 star. If you want a book about the difficulties women face in the field of STEM, read 'Female innovators who changed the world' by Emma Shimizu. If you want a book about TV production and its nuances in the 50s, please read the excellent 'THeir own best creations: Women writers in Postwar Television by Annie Berke, compelling and so insightful. Skip this book!
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I couldn’t get into this book. Maybe if I tried another time I’d like it but in this occasion it wasn’t for me.
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#Zott4President! After finishing I'm already missing Elizabeth and Six-Thirty! A courageous, witty joy of a read laced with the frustration of what women have had to fight and still permeates our experience today. I love Zott's no-nonsense focus and the rational certainty of her inner voice. A stand-out feminist icon unwittingly rallying a community of over-looked women by refusing to be side-lined from the STEM career that runs deep through her DNA.
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A fun, easy read, it is clear why this is a TikTok and social media favourite. Elizabeth Zott is a fantastic protagonist, who is well fleshed out and engaging, despite being a little reminiscent of The Rosie Project’s Don, with a less well-drawn cast of supporting characters. I really thought this would be a rom-com as the relationship between Calvin and Elizabeth is superb, but the twist genuinely made me gasp. I loved that Elizabeth then moves on to a career in TV, with a huge impact on American female audiences, which was really engaging and empowering with the non-romance path that was surprising and enjoyable.
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This has to be my favourite read so far of 2022. What a beautiful book! I don't need to tell you the story as you can read that for yourself. The emotions provoked by this book were quite something. Heartwarming, devastating, clever, witty, weird (a dog that thinks and understands!)funny-it has all emotions in equal measure. I wanted to get to know Elizabeth and her family-the characters were developed beautifully and all in equal measure. This is a book that will stay with me for some time. I was gutted when it ended! I  think this would make a wonderful film!

Thank you to Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I started seeing rave reviews before I began the book and now I understand why. A completely unique perspective, integrating science with storytelling, coupled with charming, quirky characters and an unpredictable, uplifting storyline. 

Set in 1960's,  Chemist Elizabeth Zott has never let the conventions of the time limit her. She is a strong, independent woman, carving her own path and doing her best to break down the limitations placed on woman. She does this not because she believe it is moral, but because she can. Plainly speaking she is extraordinary. The men around her try to pigeon hole her and keep her boxed, but this is one Pandora that cant be kept hidden. And she meets her match and soulmate in Calvin Evans, a brilliant and famed scientist with a complicated past. But fate is never fair and the two take us on an incredible journey.  

Elizabeth is inspiring and represents all that women (and men) can be. She beats to her own drum, she doesn't let the opinions on others affect her own self image, she has incredible self belief and her potential knows no limits. She is a partner, a mother, a role model and her own person. There are life lessons in this book, over and above the entertaining storyline. "No more holding yourself back. No more subscribing to other opinions of what you can achieve". Truly motivational! Parts of Elizabeth's journey is so relatable and identifiable. May this inspire real woman to achieve their dreams too.
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I wasnt sure if i was going to like this one but I found it to be really witty and although set in the past it was really interesting.
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I enjoyed this book immensely. I don't read much from decades past, but this one had such universal themes and an underlying current of bold and strong women that I absolutely loved it. A good story with good characters, just a lacked a little pace in some stretches for me.
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Elizabeth Zott is a chemist. She has fire in her heart and a firm belief that women can be everything they want to be. But it is the 1960s, and the world hasn’t caught up yet. Through an unconventional relationship and some life twists she couldn’t have expected, Elizabeth finds herself a single mother and a star of a TV cooking show. And Elizabeth has a message for the women who watch her show – change can happen, and it starts with you.

Ok, full disclosure, I. Loved. This. Book. It was brilliantly paced, it was funny, it was heartwarming. It had devastating moments and moments of really touching dialogue. It made me angry, as well, because even in 2022 there are plenty of moments that felt not too far away from the experiences of Elizabeth.

Garmus has this beautiful ability to handle really challenging and heart-wrenching topics with grace and humour. I found myself compelled to read on, even through the most difficult sections.

More than anything else, these characters felt real. They felt like the kind of people I would meet, love, and loath. They were human, and flawed, and capable of both good and bad.

Delightful, engaging and utterly re-readable too.

Books in Steel City x

*Thanks Randomhouse UK and Netgalley for gifting me this copy in exchange for an honest review!
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A pinch of salt ★★★★☆

When smart and literal Elizabeth Zott becomes the accidental face of teatime television, she also becomes an unexpected beacon for ordinary women.

Elizabeth’s character is unique. Her lack of social cues and niceties and her ideas about sex, marriage, and motherhood are brave and inspiring. The 1960s is not ready for Elizabeth Zott.

Yet as well as a strong and quirky feminist, we see a woman struggling with grief and defined by her home life and cooking show rather than her chemistry skills. Elizabeth is first and foremost a chemist but faces terrible ignorance and misogyny by both men and women in the male dominated world of science.

Gradually Elizabeth makes her voice heard and finds some justice in the world, whilst giving many women the opportunity to have a voice and speak the truth. Whilst times have changed, they have not changed so much that Elizabeth’s experiences don’t resonate.

A powerful, original and ultimately empowering read which I very much appreciated and enjoyed (despite the talking dog).
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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock then you’ll have heard lots about Bonnie Garmus’s Lessons in Chemistry already, and with good reason. Featuring one of the most brilliant female characters I’ve ever read, it’s a sharp, funny and unforgettable novel.

I absolutely loved the premise of this book, almost as much as I loved its main protagonist, Elizabeth Zott. Her constant battle for some kind of gender equality, particularly in the workplace and in science but also just in her general life, is written really well, and with warmth and humour.

It’s a love story, a story about family and how grief and loss affect those relationships and the life story of a remarkable woman. I loved it!

With thanks to Doubleday for gifting me a digital copy to review.
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I have been hearing about this book for a while so was really pleased to get a copy via netgalley. 
Elizabeth Zott is a talented chemist but in the 1960's women working let alone working as a chemist is not the done thing.  When she falls in love with a fellow chemist things start looking up.  A number of years later Elizabeth accidentally finds herself in lead role in a TV cookery show where she starts to inspire her female viewers that they can maybe have more. 
Really enjoyed this book and I can see what the hype is about.
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I'm always a little wary of over-hyped books, and I'd been seeing Lessons in Chemistry around the BookTwitter/Bookstagram sphere A LOT. However, I needn't have worried, because reading it was an absolute blast.

Elizabeth Zott is an amazing main character. She is smart and confident, resilient in the face of adversity, principled and willing to fight for what she believes in. And boy, does she have to fight. I absolutely adored Elizabeth's poise and ability to stay true to herself, resisting all her colleagues' attempts at intimidating her or making her believe she should be less than she is.

While Elizabeth is fantastic and I could spend a long, long time talking about her only, she is surrounded by an equally amazing cast of supporting characters. Some I loved, some I hated, others I mildly disliked, but all of them were beautifully characterised and enriched the story immensely. Even some of the more minor characters felt wholly rounded and reading about them was a thing of beauty. I particularly loved Elizabeth's dog, Six-Thirty, and the passages in his POV were some of the best ever.

The writing is another thing I really appreciated here, and I'm really impressed with how the author managed to build such an emotionally rich story on the foundation of a critique of society while tackling equality issues. Despite the fact that some of the themes could be quite heavy, the tone always felt perfectly appropriate and I loved the humourous, zingy quality it had. In some ways, it reminded me of Jonas Jonasson's The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared in its ability to stimulate the reader's critical reflection skills through humour.

Lessons in Chemistry was a wonderful discovery and one of the times when, for me, the hype was right! It made me laugh, cry, feel, think, and want to take action while leaving me feeling light and with my heart full: all the hallmarks of a great book. One not to miss.
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Thank you to Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A wonderful witty book, very different, but fun with quirky intelligent charachters. definitely a recommended read.
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I have mixed feelings about Lessons in Chemistry. Needless to say it’s a very witty book and quite clever in parts. The best thing about it, it has to be said, is that a main character is a dog and somehow this is pulled off in a realistic way(!)
While the dialectical issues that kept recurring throughout the story frustrated me by being too black and white, they tended to round themselves out and show the greys of these issues more towards the end. Only, I still found reading about them frustrating and this distracted me from being able to enjoy the book thoroughly. Namely the blatant sexism which I suppose was accurate for the time period (late 1950s early 60s), but still maddeningly annoying. After the first 100 or so pages it did pick up and I would definitely say I managed to get into it and enjoy it enough to finish. It also gets you thinking and was even inspiring in parts. A solid 3 star read.
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“What I love about rowing […] is that it’s always done backwards. It’s almost as if the sport itself is trying to teach us to not get ahead of ourselves.”

What an absolute gem and a strong contender for debut novel of the year!

Meet Elizabeth Zott. Scientist, mother, lover, rower, she never settles for anything.

Whilst navigating through Elizabeth’s challenges, Bonnie Garmus very wittily paint a portrait of what it was like to be a woman in the 60s, through the eyes of different generations, from Elizabeth to her daughter Madeline, from her dog Six-Thirty to Dr Mason or Father Wakely. 

Each character is a window to different ways of thinking; to prejudices that Elizabeth is intent on fighting. 

Strong, uncompromising, inspirational, you are bound to fall in love with this force of nature. If I’d been one of her contemporary, I would definitely have wanted to be like her, to share her values. 

Teaching hundreds of words to her dog, encouraging free speech and thinking for her daughter, sky is the limit for Elizabeth Zott. She thrives to use science to fix humanity, she simply cannot accept the established order of civilisation. She can’t accept those archaic, outrageous and misogynistic ways of life, stereotypes and biases that society keeps on perpetuating.

“When a boat succeeds, it’s because the people in the boat have managed to set aside their petty differences and physical discrepancies and row as one. Perfect harmony”.

Whether it’s at work, in her love life with Calvin, or with her few friends, she simply is implacable and uncompromising. It all comes down to chemistry. As a result, men fear and despise her, women envy and resent her, but she simply can’t let anyone dictate how to go about her life. 

“People need to believe in something bigger than themselves”

When you don’t fit in, you either comply and compromise, or you stand your ground. When she gets her own cooking show on TV, revolutionising the « Afternoon Depression Zone », her fierceness and intransigent nature will, in spite of herself, empower thousands of women to believe in themselves, to understand their worth, to take back some control. 

This book is a triumph! So compelling, thought provoking, it will challenge you to question subjects you didn’t even know you had to! Philosophical at times, full of clever and subtle thoughts on tough subjects, it will make your brain and your soul sense so many emotions: anger, rage, happiness, sadness, you laugh, you cry but love so much. It is pure joy!

I can’t stop thinking about it, this book is powerful, gripping, endearing, you have got to get yourself a copy.
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Lessons in Chemistry is a wonderful wonderful read. Elizabeth is a genius chemist who is constantly gaslighted and overlooked by her male colleagues. In recognition of her talent, she gets a tv show called Supper at Six, a la Julia Child. It is a bully pulpit she uses to empower the women of America. It's funny, it's moving, it's awesome.
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Absolutely loved this book!!!
Set in the 1960's, this book is about Elizabeth Zott, a chemist (but not a real one because she's a woman) and the discriminations she faces as a woman despite her brilliance and that men secretly come to her for professional advice.
She's incredibly fierce and stands up for herself in a way a lot of women probably felt like but don't have the strength due to the misogyny and sexism they would face if they did. 
Despite her best efforts not to, Elizabeth falls in love with an equally brilliant fellow chemist Calvin who just totally gets her even the much frowned upon live in relationship they have instead of being married. 
Then along comes Six-thirty, a dog whose vocabulary is expanding with his understanding. He has acute observation of the situation and a humor to match- if only he could talk but his position in the book makes him invaluable.
Then just as life couldn't be more perfect, Everything changes. Elizabeth finds herself sacked from her job (unfairly) and needing to work, takes a job on a cookery show because as well as being a brilliant chemist, she is a brilliant cook as well. Elizabeth, being Elizabeth doesn't follow the rules and dresses in a tight dress and makes cocktails as the producer would like her to- thank goodness, but instead shows that cooking is chemistry and unwittingly empowers women along the way. 
Elizabeth is a likeable character and I would probably assume with her brilliance and individual way of seeing the world, she is probably has level 1 ASD.
This book is laugh out loud and emotional and high lights sexism and misogyny occurring at many levels. Have things really changed that much? Maybe people are less obvious about misogyny now........
Brilliant book for general fiction readers especially women's fiction. would definitely recommend and read another Bonnie Garmus book. 
Many thanks
to #NetGalley, Random House UK and Transworld Publishers for this preview read.
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This was undoubtedly my favourite book of the year so far! i bought a physical copy as soon as it came out! 

Lessons in Chemistry follows Elizabeth Zott as her career trajectory takes her from chemist to TV personality. 

i adored reading Zott. She was very headstrong and she always acted in a very typical to her way. One of the most believable characters I have read. 

The dog in this book, Six-Thirty was an absolute scene stealer and his inner monologue made me teary eyed on multiple occasions. 

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a review copy.
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