Cover Image: Lessons in Chemistry

Lessons in Chemistry

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Member Reviews

I find it very difficult to write a review for this book..
The book is about a female scientist making her way through male-centered scientific environment.. and being mistreated along the way. Unfortunately while a lot has changed since the 19060s, not enough..
This is a page-turner, including some interesting characters and the most lovely dog - as many reviews say.

However, I thought the characters threw me off here a bit. The book sustains the opinion that to be in science (as a woman!) you need to be an absolute genius and also suddenly know not only about your own field (here, Chemistry), you also know all the little details about medical conditions, biology etc. Sentences like: you are a scientist, so you must think like that and behave a certain way - is unrealistic to me and very drawn to work for the story. 

I would love to see more stories where scientists are portrayed as they actually are. Reading this book makes one feel, it is basically impossible, unless you are a genius and incredibly gifted. 

Still, the book covers some incredibly important topics and highlights women in science, which is of course amazing! Loved the dog and the rowing, which the author mentioned she drew from her own life, which were so well done!

Thank you for my e-ARC Random House UK and Netgalley!
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I have seen 'Lessons in Chemistry' absolutely everywhere with some absolutely glowing reviews. It sounded right up my street! My favourite character was 'Mad'.  For me, the book was just a bit too long and repetitive in parts that made me lose interest.
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I’d like to thank NetGalley and Doubleday for approving me for an ARC of this book.

I have seen so many great reviews of this book and so many people have said that this is their book of the year. When I see statements like that I often feel a mixture of excitement and nerves about reading the book. What if I don’t like it? What if it doesn’t live up to the hype? There was only one way I was going to find out….

I am absolutely beZotted! I am truly at a loss for words to explain just how fantastic this book is. Not only is Elizabeth Zott highly likeable she is inspirational, empowering and fiercely determined. Her sense of humour is second to none and matches her candid nature beautifully. I felt enraged at how unjustly she was treated and some of the horrors that she had to suffer from childhood right through to adult life.

Accompanying Elizabeth was a brilliant cast of characters. From Mad, who reminded me so much of my favourite childhood character Matilda, to Walter who’s friendship with Elizabeth was beautiful and of course not forgetting Six-Thirty! All these secondary characters and more only enriched the story and added even more emotion. Whether it was Walter and Elizabeth disagreeing over how she should act on the tv show or Six-Thirty looking after them all I felt every emotion possible at several points.

When the story reaches the TV show this was when I giggled the most. I have to hand it to Elizabeth for standing her ground and presenting the show how she wanted to and not how the men thought she should. To steal Zott’s own words “There is nothing average about the average housewife!”

For a woman to stand up to the social expectations of herself and all women in the 50’s/60’s was unheard of and most were too scared to. The novel shows how the actions of one person can trickle down and start a domino effect and make a positive change in society.

This story wasn’t without its twists and turns and many times I found myself sobbing. When Elizabeth delivered her speech at the tv show I felt she was speaking to all women everywhere, even us readers, empowering us to follow our dreams.

What Bonnie Garmus has written here is absolutely beautiful and if you haven’t read it yet then put it to the top of your reading pile. It lived up to the hype and has definitely stolen the spot of my favourite read this year so far.
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WOW! What a book. What a woman! This has been BY FAR my favourite book that I have read this year.

I devoured this story in two days and I was gutted when it was finished. Honestly, I want more of Elizabeth Zott.

The story is set in 1960s America, where women’s job was to raise the children, cook dinners for their family, and generally stay in the background, be silent and have no opinion of their own. Elizabeth Zott is the total opposite. She is a very talented chemist with a sharp tongue and she is not afraid to voice her opinions. What’s more she doesn’t want to have a husband (or children) as she feels she will lose her identity, she won’t be a Zott anymore, she will be a Mrs Someone, as women always take their husband’s name.

This book outlines Elizabeth’s story and the discrimination she’s had to endure because of her gender. Elizabeth works as a chemist at Hastings Institute and is interested to pursue research into abiogenesis, however, her despicable boss reckons she isn’t clever enough. At the Institute, she meets Calvin Evans, who becomes the love of her life. I really enjoyed reading their love story, they were truly a perfect match. They also had a dog called Six-Thirty who was a character! I loved how Garmus offered us a glimpse into dog’s thoughts. I was chuckling at times as I found Elizabeth’s responses witty. I also loved Mad, she was a character.

I don’t want to write too much of the plot of the book, as I don’t want to spoil it for you. You really have to read it for yourselves.

I fell in love with Elizabeth Zott. She is a true heroine!
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Lessons In Chemistry is a quirky read about a woman fighting the conventions of being an American woman and mother in the early 60s. Our heroine Elizabeth Zott is determined to be a scientist and in order to achieve her goal has to fight against harassment, sexism and judgment from those around her who consistently underestimate her. She somehow ends up with her own daytime tv show where she draws out the close relationship between science and cooking. Unusually this novel has a very intelligent dog as a key narrator, as well as an unconventional love story and a big family mystery to be solved.
Bonnie Garmus has fun playing with the word chemistry and its role in relationships as well as science. This is a joyous and feel good confident debut that also isn’t afraid to tackle big topics like prejudice, injustice, religion and bereavement. I’d love to read more from this author.
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I’ve been hearing a lot about this book on social media and honestly wondered if it would live up to the hype - short answer is yes!

Our heroine is funny and smart, the cast of characters around her just as entertaining and while there are times when you simply want to slap several of the men upside the head it simply adds to that brilliant 60s feel!
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Elizabeth Zott is a brilliant scientist, but as a woman in the mid 20th century she struggles to be taken seriously. Denied the opportunity for a PhD after stabbing her professor with a pencil, she takes a job as a research assistant at the Hastings Research Institute. Refusing to fetch coffee for her colleagues, or flirt with her boss, Elizabeth finds her career stalled, until an unexpected meeting with the institute’s wonder boy, Calvin Evans.

“When it came to equality, 1952 was a real disappointment.”

Shifting between past and present, Lessons in Chemistry is a lively and thought-provoking story of ambition, love, motherhood, and science, featuring a heroine with an empowering message for women, still relevant today. 

“Once a research chemist, Elizabeth Zott was a woman with flawless skin and an unmistakable demeanor of someone who was not average and never would be.”

It’s clear, though never confirmed, that Elizabeth is on the autism spectrum, candid and artless, she’s frustrated by the social conventions that attempt to constrain her both personally and professionally. I found it easy to empathise with her, given the struggle for equality in both spheres lingers, and cheered her refusal to capitulate to expectations.

““Cooking is chemistry….And chemistry is life. Your ability to change everything—including yourself—starts here.”

Though repeatedly thwarted in her career ambitions, largely by men determined to either subjugate or exploit her, Elizabeth will not be denied. Accepting the role as a hostess of an afternoon television cooking show is a rare compromise for the sake of practically, but Elizabeth doesn’t have it in her to adhere to convention, much to the dismay and ire of her immediate boss, and his boss. That her unusual approach strikes a chord with her audience of housewives surprises everyone, except Elizabeth.

“Imagine if all men took women seriously.”

Though Garmus explores a range of serious issues that disproportionately affect women such as workplace harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, and gender discrimination, her wry humour offsets many of the story’s painful moments. It helps too, that few of the men who treat Elizabeth badly remain unpunished.

“Family is far more than biology.”

I loved the found family Elizabeth attracts. Her relationship with Calvin is a charming surprise, a true connection of soulmates. Elizabeth’s daughter, Madeline, is a delight, as is the equally precocious family dog, Six-Thirty. I quickly warmed to Elizabeth’s across-the-way neighbour, Harriet, her obstetrician and fellow rower, Dr Mason, her stressed out show boss, Walter Pine, and even the disillusioned Reverend Wakely.

“Children, set the table. Your mother needs a moment to herself.”

Lessons in Chemistry is witty, provocative, poignant and uplifting story of a woman who refuses to be anything other than who she is.
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I was expecting something more from "Lessons in Chemistry", yet it's another feel-good story set in the US in the 50s and 60s. From the very first pages this novel felt like it was written with a sole purpose of turning it into another streaming service's series. I couldn't help but associate it with Netflix's "Hollywood" - a fantasy of what could've and would've if we were able to transfer just a bit of contemporary wokeness into not very woke reality.

The main character, Elizabeth Zott, is way ahead of her times in terms of her world view, ambition, her entire demeanour that it's almost unbelievable. I was even wondering if this character was purposefully written by Bonnie Garmus to display certain characteristics of people on the autism spectrum.

If it was, what a pity that the author didn't start the chapter by saying: "In the 50's ASD wasn't recognised yet". What I'm referring to, is the Garmus' tendency to dumbing down certain issues, such as abortion laws and what women wore in case the readers didn't know that past times were different than present. I felt more credit should be given to the readers and their capabilities to understand how much the times have changed.

"Lessons in Chemistry" wasn't a fantasy depiction of the 50s and 50s that makes for a pleasant escapism, neither was it perspective-broadening, However, I must admit that it was well-written with a great narrative skill.
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lessons in chemistry was a real mixed bag for me, honestly. bits were done exceptionally well, but there were multiple odd choices and a lack of realism to the narrative that made it a little hard to take this book seriously. i do question the really rather high rating on goodreads, but perhaps i'm just in the minority here.

on the one hand, garmus manages at times to explore the complexities of familial relationships, loss, and female empowerment really well. it's not all done well all the time, but there are some powerful, golden nuggets throughout that are really what give the story its unique charm. i really liked the science mentioned throughout - not that i understood all of it but it was interesting to see that it seemed to have been really researched and woven into the protagonist, elizabeth zott's, character, rather than totally glossed over. for the most part, i also really liked elizabeth, and there were some other characters whose journeys and lives it was interesting to get some insight into, such as harriet, calvin and walter. there are also a handful of genuinely funny (and actual laugh-out-loud) moments scattered which were pretty enjoyable. a lot of the humour, however, either didn't land or only evoked a sharp exhale through the nose.

on the other hand, a few things made it difficult to fully like the story. for example, there's a clear feminist narrative that ends up feeling extremely heavy-handed and on the nose. the story is set in the 60s but elizabeth has opinions that feel like they came straight out of the present day. and no, i'm not saying that women of the 60s couldn't be forward-thinking or disagree with the societal values of the day, but elizabeth's narrative was so in-your-face that after a certain point it just didn't feel realistic at all. and because of this, it also feels like you, the reader, are being talked down to. there was no nuance; all the sexism was so rampant and blatant that it's as if garmus thought readers would be too stupid to recognise it otherwise. which is ironic, considering that one of elizabeth's main goals is to always treat the women in her life as though they are fully capable of understanding complexities.

another odd thing was the recurring perspective of the dog. i don't really know why it was felt an insight into the dog's thoughts and feelings was necessary. it felt weird and pulled me out of the story.

i think the only other thing to mention was that this book takes a very strong anti-religion stance. main characters are atheist because of their scientific approaches, and basically all of the religious figures seem to be portrayed negatively in some ways (e.g. religious figures being closeted atheists, or others being abusive, greedy, liars etc.). i am not religious myself but there are some people who might be uncomfortable with this, so i thought it was worth mentioning.

because this story is really more about the overarching feminist narrative than any kind of plotline, and because i didn't feel that it came together quite right, i've gone for 3* rounded up from 2.5.

massive thanks to random house uk, transworld publishers and netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Elizabeth Zott is a chemist, but in a man's world in the 50s, she is constantly battling to be taken seriously. The book begins as Elizabeth takes a job as a daytime TV cook, but we go back in time to find out just how she got there (a journey through love, heartache, loss, and hard work) and what she does once she's there.

I loved her daughter's character, although a little far-fetched to say the least, she was a delight. I also loved her dog, Six-Thirty. Whilst I'm not usually a fan of animals being given a human-like quality, this did grow on me through the book and I grew to love him. Elizabeth herself isn't exactly a likeable character, but her thoughts and ideas are so sound, and ahead of her time that you can't help rooting for her.

Overall I don't think this book was "laugh out loud funny" as I've heard it described, but it is amusing, captivating, and interesting. I'm keen to see what this author does next, and I'm also looking forward to the TV adaptation. Thank you Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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‘For Elizabeth, cooking wasn’t some preordained feminine duty. As she’d told Calvin, cooking was chemistry. That’s because cooking actually is chemistry.’

My thanks to Random House U.K. Transworld Doubleday U.K. for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ by Bonnie Garmus in exchange for an honest review. 

There was a great deal of prepublication buzz about this debut comedy-drama, set in California during the 1950-60s. While I was initially drawn by its eye catching cover, it certainly fulfilled its promise and proved an amazing read. Indeed, one of my best of 2022. 

So a quick overview: In 1952 research chemist Elizabeth Zott is working at the Hastings Research Institute. As might be guessed from its period setting, the all-male team dismisses her abilities and seeks to undermine her. Elizabeth carries on regardless. Yet she has one ally in Calvin Evans, a lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated scientist, who falls in love with her mind. 

While there is true chemistry between them, life is unpredictable and a few years later, Elizabeth Zott finds herself unemployed and a single mother. A few more years pass and one of Madeleine Zott’s schoolmates has a father involved in television. He is in desperate need of a replacement show for an afternoon slot. Knowing that Elizabeth is a great cook, he talks her into hosting a new cooking show, Supper at Six. 

By late 1961 Elizabeth's unusual approach to cooking is proving revolutionary. Yet as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because Elizabeth Zott is not only teaching women to cook; she is daring them to challenge the status quo of the day. 

One of the many wonderful things about this novel is the stray dog that Elizabeth and Calvin adopt and name Sixthirty.  He actually brings his own quirky canine observations to the narrative. 

‘Lessons in Chemistry’ ticks all my boxes: it is a literary novel yet is extremely readable. It has a strong plot that includes social issues of its time that remain relevant today, brilliant characters that leap off the page, and a well realised period setting. Within its pages is found humour and drama; moments that are heartbreaking as well as heartwarming. And there is Elizabeth Zott, definitely a character to remember.

I felt that ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ was just perfection.  That it will be a best seller and critically acclaimed is a given. I also expect that it is going to be a big hit with reading groups. 

On publication I bought its hardback edition as it is definitely one I want on my library shelf. 

Very highly recommended.
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book. I have chosen to write this honest review voluntarily.
Elizabeth Zott, the star of this book, is a clever chemist in the days when women were not recognised, appreciated or treated equally; these facts are presented within this interesting and engaging book. The tale of her fight against the system and efforts to gain love and respect is written in this novel with wry humour, comic one-liners and incredibly sad moments couched within realistic relationships. The book is unlike anything I've ever read before and I cannot recommend it too highly, I didn't want to put it down. I'm immediately signing up to follow this author.
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Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book ahead of release. From the cover to the title to the blurb, the promise that this was 'the debut of 2022', to the realisation this book had already been greenlit for a TV Series 

Hand on my heart, I had no idea what to rate this book. It’s superbly written, there isn't a doubt in my mind that this author is superbly talented. I was invested and kept coming back for more, even when I wasn’t sure what I was coming back for. The book…is nonsensical. I was discussing it with my partner and they really hit the nail on the head by saying ‘sounds like it’s trying to be a fantasy and a biography at the same time’ - the talking dog that gives entire monologues, basically info-dumping at you to keep the story moving. The child who’s wandering about reading war and peace at 4. The audience enjoying full chemical explanations of food and then using them in day to day life as if that’s standard practice.

t just went beyond the borders. It hit the quirky but believable, I suppose, box, and took a bunson burner to it.

That being said, I loved that it was centred around such a strong female character. Elizabeth is headstrong, intelligent, capable and entirely held back by the world around her. She herself was a grounding rock in the centre of the story.

I think it’s also very important to mention that this book contains graphic sexual assault (a small paragraph with a lot of weight, x2); in fact, it felt like the majority of the men in this book were blatantly sexist to the point of it feeling almost pantomime. There was no representation of minorities and the struggles they were going through; just very heavy handed sexism towards the white women in the book. All of which was probably true, but when combined with the monologuing dog brought an additional air of ‘insert confused, furrowed eyebrows here’

The story arc with Frisk felt also unbelievable. And plays into the above point. I’m not going to say more and spoil it

I enjoyed the book. I feel right to give it a 3 as I write these thoughts down though. I was interested, the well-worn scenes and plot kept me engaged. I loved six-thirty, he was by far my favourite character. I just think he’d have been better suited to a steampunk fantasy lab.
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The most wonderful book highlighting all the struggles of female academia in the 50/60s. Elizabeth Zott is a pioneer in forging a way ahead for female scientists. Calvin was a beloved character who endeared the audience to care about Elizabeth and six thirty. Delightful read.
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I would rate this book at 3.5 ⭐️

I did really enjoy the story and the feminism throughout, the pacing was excellent and at no point fell flat but it just wasn't that intising and did take me 2 weeks to finish. The backstory of Elizabeth and Calvin was my favourite part and Calvin was probably my favourite character. Lessons in chemistry had a very satisfying happy ending and was done perfectly. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves feminist fiction it was good just not great for me personally.
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I just read this in one sitting, glued to every word. I'm crying. I am so attached to Elizabeth Zott. 

The book follows a woman in the 60s who is a hard working chemist battling against a whole lot of sexism and discrimination. It follows her life before and after having a child, Mad. Her life has never been easy, from her tragic childhood to her relationship with Mad's father.   I just felt so sad at Elizabeth's loneliness in the world and heart warmed by the people that stood by her as her friends. 

This is a really emotional story, includes a lot of tragedy and a lot of hope. The ending really had me tearing up in a way that makes you warm. I don't have the words to describe it. The depth of the characters in this and how they all fit together is incredible. Also I love the dog, the star of the show who even gets his own point of view, Six Thirty.
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Thank you for the opportunity to review this new novel.

For once I didn't put down a book I couldn't get into right away. I thought about all the rave reviews I've read and hoped it would be better. It certainly improved and at the end I loved it. 

It's laugh-out-loud funny, surprisingly dark but also filled with love. How can you not love a character like Elizabeth? She doesn't cave for anybody or anything, she do what she believes in and that's admirable, especially during the 1950's. 

Harriet, one of the characters, is a gem and reading about the interaction between her and Elizabeth are five-star reading :)
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A lady on a mission. A scientist by education and calling but not accepted , at the time, in what was seen as a male orientated profession. Through circumstances she finds herself projected into the world of tv as a cookery programme host where she can introduce others to her love of chemistry with undiluted success 
A plethora o zany characters pepper this totally readable book
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC.

Elizabeth Zott is a tour-de-force of a character - any author would be jealous they hadn't written her. Garmus writes wonderfully about a time when feminist icons were badly needed, especially in the sciences, and doesn't shy away from the injustices suffered by women of the time. Every character in the book jumps off the page, and the narrative drags you in. I'll recommend this book to all my friends this summer.
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This review features in the 28/4 issue of YOU magazine

LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY
&&&&
By Bonnie Garmus
Doubleday
Have you ever heard of the feminist icon Elizabeth Zott? Probably not because she exists only between the covers of American author Bonnie Garmus' debut novel Lessons in Chemistry.
But by the time you get to the end of the novel you'll find yourself wishing that Elizabeth was real – there’s so much to like about the chemistry boff-turned reluctant TV cooking personality and her super-bright daughter and funny dog Six-Thirty.
How can you not love a woman who ends off each show with the catchphrase, "Children, set the table. Your mother needs a moment to herself."
Elizabeth's driving passion is chemistry – she knows it’s what she was born to do but it's the early 1960s and her male colleagues at Hastings Research Institute make her life hell and treat her like dirt. Eventually, forced out of the job she loves, the only way the single mother can support herself and her child is to step into the limelight as the host of a cookery TV show.
But as she presents Supper at Six, Elizabeth finds ways to sneakily bring in chemistry and her approach to cookery ("combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride") wins her a legion of fans. Because as well as teaching women to cook, she's also daring them to challenge the status quo.
As she swims against the current, there are so many willing her to fail but unbeknown to her there is a mystery benefactor who believes in her work.
It’s a wonderful, funny, quirky and at times maddeningly frustrating tale from Garmus, an American copywriter, who waited until the age of 64 to release her first novel. But good things are clearly worth waiting for – before it had even hit the shelves, Apple TV + had already snapped up the rights and the series starring Brie Larson is set for release later in the year.
But don’t wait for that because as any reader knows, the book is always better!
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