Cover Image: Lessons in Chemistry

Lessons in Chemistry

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Member Reviews

What is not to love about Elizabeth Zott? I loved this book: my top read so far this year, other books are going to have to go some way to beat this!

Set in the 1950's, Elizabeth is the antithesis of a typical housewife. She is blunt, direct and extremely literal in her observations and expectations - I really wanted to be this woman! Elizabeth is educated and is a passionate, knowledgeable chemist, but living in such a male dominated world means that her opportunities are always limited and short-lived. Everything that Elizabeth undertakes is given the same amount of focus and completed with precision, even when faced with the unpalatable task of parenting alone, she remains determined and fulfils the role with authority - albeit, unconventionally! From choosing names for her dog and daughter to menu planning and delivering tv shows - everything that Zott does is done in an unorthodox manner.

The cover is eye-catching and possibly looks like it will be a frivolous read, but this is far from the case - the chemical explanations are both accessible and detailed, so I learnt a lot of interesting facts from this book and will never look at my kitchen and cookery exploits in quite the same way! The characters are well defined, and very easy to imagine! I guess Garmus is drawing on some stereotypes but it works so well and I loved every moment of this book.
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Ah what a story! I was already sold on the premise - a cooking show presented scientifically by the indomitable Elizabeth Zott - and found this such a satisfying read. There are themes of love, feminism, religion, vanity all expertly woven into the fabric of the lives of Elizabeth, her daughter Mad, their neighbour Harriet and their intuitive dog, named Six-Thirty. There's a quirkiness here but it only serves to underline the injustices in society that Bonnie writes about so effectively. It had me laughing, gasping, raging, and just enjoying hanging out with these people so much. Thoroughly recommend.
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Despite the colourful cover, comedic characters, and generally light tone of the writing, this wasn't the light-hearted, feel-good novel I felt I was promised.  Elizabeth Zott struggled to find her place and purpose throughout the whole book, and had no sympathy for the tragedy or abuse she had suffered, it was an emotionally difficult read for me, at times a traumatic one Spoiler for trigger warnings: (on page rape and sexual, and physical assault, which is referred to at times throughout the rest of the book), and an ultimately sad one.

I really liked the writing, but I went to it with this promise from the blurb "Your ability to change everything - including yourself - starts here"  Elizabeth's main characteristic is that she continually refuses to acknowledge that the mid 20th-century world that she lives in is a man's world, she is unchanging and unrelenting, that is her strength and her downfall, and the source of her constant disappointment with the world she finds herself in, so she doesn't change herself at all.  Her TV show does give women a sense that they are more than men and the male society of the time would have them believe, but in providing this education through a TV show, the book implies that pretty much all of the women other than Elizabeth Zott need to be told this, that they are not bright enough to come to that conclusion themselves. I get that sometimes it does take one voice to wake people out of complacency, but the way it was shown made Elizabeth look superior, and the rest of female society as needing to be enlightened which was kind of patronising in itself.

Elizabeth is sad and depressed all the way through the book, she has good reason to be, but I can't understand why it is being marketed as uplifting or joyful, I was so drained and disheartened by the end of it, not least because her story is set in the mid-20th century, yet I have experienced and am obviously very aware of, similar attitudes and abuse still being very much prevalent today.  While the male dominant society is a less readily accepted narrative now, the behaviours are still there, and that is also depressing.  

Elizabeth's opportunities too, and where she finds herself at the end of the book: the payoff for her struggles, are not the result of her hard work being acknowledged, but are the culmination of a string of lucky coincidences, being in the right place at the right time, and ultimately, having a very rich investor notice her because of her relationship to her famous male scientist romantic interest.  Despite her struggles with colleagues and the men in positions of power or authority, she does manage to move from one good job to the next with apparent ease, and gets the TV job through a lucky encounter, professionally, she gets along way more easily than any of the other women in the story, and in life generally.  Through her TV position, she encourages other women to follow her path, without warning them, or preparing them, for the harsh reality she faced in her day-to-day life working in the sciences, by empowering these women, but not relating the dangers or potential hardships they might face, felt a bit foolhardy, but was true to her character, as she continually refused to acknowledge or recognise the society she was in.  Her particular happy ending, while deserved and worked for, is not something that all women can achieve or strive for, but a handout from a female relation of her male colleague and boyfriend (she is actually referred to as a fairy godmother), no male attitudes were changed, her boss never acknowledges her work, but is just fired by the investor, the society and systems don't change at all, so the final messaging felt a bit abrupt, fairytale-like, and off point to me.  

There are multiple points of view, the daughter is way ahead of her age, not just in her advanced reading, but in how she sees the world and interacts with random strangers, the dog is a funny addition, but none of the characters go through any kind of arc, most stick with the views and positions they began with, so it is not a character development kind of story, though it is character, rather than plot, led.

Three stars because I really liked the writing style, the humour, and the premise.  It was a quick and easy read, but, for me, it didn't live up to it's promise.

Trigger warnings: this book contains bullying, emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse and rape, depression, and loss.
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This story is hugely entertaining although has to be read with a pinch of salt. I was rooting for Elizabeth, Mad, Calvin, et al every step of the way but being old I don't begin to imagine life at that time for such individual characters would've been anything nearly so amusing as the story seems to suggest. Despite my old age cynicism I loved this book, Six Thirty was undoubtedly my hero throughout. What a debut!
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A Lesson in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus Goodreads review

I got A Lesson in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus for free from NetGalley for a fair and honest review.

A Lesson in Chemistry tells, the story of Elizabeth Zot, who as all the skills to be a chemist, however this is the late 50’s early 60’s America, a time when women had no equal rights.
They could not even write a cheque and sign it without a man also having to sign it. 
So she ends up presenting  a day time  TV cooking show.
There are times when I read a novel such as A Lesson in Chemistry, which are historical fiction, that examines issues that are both relevant when the novel is set as well as the present day.  Where the issue takes over the novel entirely.
This can range from the characterisation, writing and even the plot line which is used to examine this issue. I can Clearly say that A Lesson in Chemistry is not one of those novels.
Firstly, the opening chapter of the novel had me both entertained and gripped to the book in writing style and the main character, Elizabeth Zott. Who is a chemist as well as a single mother of a child who is losing weight even though she gives her daughter the correct nutrients and celeries in the food she takes to school?
Secondly there are times that this book was funny, especially the episode of the show that had mushrooms in it, this scene had me laughing out loud, which is something books very rarely do.
Third I am going to have to say Elizabeth’s dog called Six-Thirty, (the daughter is called Mad), I will let you read the book to find out why. 
Six-Thirty was a dog that had his own personality and there were times when the writer goes into the dog’s mind. Which really adds to the story at that time with light relief as the story does deal with some deep issues.
The only weakness for me was the ending, while the novel itself was so good the ending seemed very predictable, from about halfway through. Having said that this is a novel that was not damaged by the ending, just let down slightly by it being predictable.
However, with the deadpan dog, and Elizabeth Zot, along with all the other characters I Have not mentioned A Lesson in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, is definitely a must read book.
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I just love Elizabeth Zott! An amazing portrayal of of a determined woman. I’d love to read a follow on book.
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This was a very unusual and interesting story about a rather unconventional woman in the 1960’s. 

I was rather envious of Elizabeth Zott in some aspects of her life, but some of the circumstances she finds herself in were rather sad. 

It felt authentic in it’s recounting of what was expected of women during the era it was set. 

I enjoyed reading this book, very entertaining and interesting.

Many thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for gifting me this arc in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
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In these enlightened times it's hard to imagine a time when it was thought that women couldn't be scientists or anything else they wanted to be.
It's the 1950s and Elizabeth Zott is a female chemist working at Hastings Research.  She encounters all sorts of discrimination particularly from her boss.  It is also the place where she meets the love of her life, Calvin Evans.
They are soulmates but she refuses to get married as that would mean conforming and that's something that she has never done.  Following an accident her life changes dramatically in more ways that one.  In the years that follow she finally gets friends, has an alternative career and becomes a household name.
This is a lovely read and I found myself egging Elizabeth on when her character was losing faith.
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Great story about a single mother in the 60's who totally went against the norm in society, work and life in general.  It had a lovely message to it and I would be keen to read more from the author. I enjoyed reading of a lead female character who did believe in herself all along she was just constrained by what others thought.

Thank you to NetGalley & publisher for the advanced copy in return for a honest review.
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Elizabeth Zott is a chemist. She's also the star of the hit TV show Supper at Six, a show that teaches women to cook using a somewhat unusual approach. In 1960s America a lot of people don't approve of Elizabeth's lifestyle or beliefs, and her attitude to life ruffles many feathers. She is also proving to be a role model for women across the country though, and against all odds is giving her viewers the power to change their lives.

Yikes! Just before I started reading this I saw an awesome review on a blog I follow (tessatalksbooks.blog), but have to say that even having read that I was unprepared for quite how much I would love this. I think this will be one that stays with me.

There is so much to unpack in this one. On the surface the story is about Elizabeth and her struggle to fit in, her family life with her partner Calvin, her daughter Mad, and their dog Six Thirty. At it's heart though it is so much more than that. It's a reminder for us all of what women have faced historically and their struggles to get us where we are today. 

You'll see a lot of reviews talk about this book being funny, and it is in a lot of places. It is very confronting in places too. Hearing about not just the discrimination Elizabeth faces but the abuse is definitely something that makes you stop and think. Knowing that experiences like hers were so commonplace is galling. I know there are still many women who are facing those same issues today, and I sincerley hope it is with less frequency. The other thing that struck me in this book is how clearly Bonnie Garmus shows the effect of women knocking each other down rather than helping each other stand tall. 

Elizabeth is a fantastic character, and I absolutely loved her. She is described as being unusual, not the average woman, but I think really she is the woman a lot of people wish they could be. Whether you have the same desires from life as her or not, to be able to hold strong in your belief in yourself and not let the pressures of societal expectations drag you down is an exceptional trait. I think Garmus played this perfectly. There is a temptation with characters like this to play them as being incapable of making friends, or as being so different that they are hard to relate to. That's not Elizabeth Zott. She might not have a lot of friends but that isn't because she isn't able to make them, it's because she doesn't want to be friends with someone who will disapprove of her lifestyle or hold her back. She is incredibly relatable as a character, and essentially when you break it down is a woman trying to do the best she can for both herself and her family, despite others trying to hold her back.

There are some wonderful (and also despicable) supporting characters in this book. Harriet is a great character, and I love how she develops and finds herself as the book progresses. I also feel like Six Thirty the dog should get a special mention. I wish my dog could learn over 600 words!!

I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of this one here, but I also feel like I could write an entire essay and not do it justice. I know it's only March but I can guarantee this one will be up there as one of my favourite reads of 2022. For a book that tackles a pretty hefty subject it still stays quite light hearted overall, particulary later on in the book. I think it's a great achievement to be able to write a book that really makes readers think, but without being too heavy and putting you off reading. If you're going to pick up any book that you see on my blog this year, make it this one, you won't regret it.

Thanks to NetGalley, Random House UK and Transworld Publishers for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
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What a great original and fun read. While telling the story of Elizabeth Zott in the late 50's ,early 60's, the key issues of female inequality and harassment  are raised without being laboured to the detriment of the story. I would have loved her as my chemistry teacher back in the day. It is a reminder of how far women have come and  how far we still have to go. The humour throughout had smiling and six thirty the dog was a real hero character. A great read.
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Im not sure this was "laugh out loud funny" as described by some reviewers but it was a wry and well written take on women's role in society in the early 60s and Elizabeth Zott was certainly an engaging character. The only thing that really jarred for me was the inclusion of the thoughts of sixthirty which I felt added nothing to the book or the people in it
thank you to netgalley and Random House for an advance copy of this book
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Lessons in Chemistry is the story of Elizabeth Zott, a female chemist in the early 60’s. The story is really in two parts, the first part is a mixture of her current timeline but also looks back at the events earlier in her life when she was working as a laboratory assistant and the second where she is a single mother and TV star. 
I found the book to be quite uneven in tone. I didn’t really enjoy the earlier part of the novel and found it to be quite disjointed. However, once the story was firmly established in the 60s, it was a much more enjoyable read and I became a lot more invested in the story. Elizabeth is an intriguing character but it took me a while to warm to her. I loved her determination to be a serious chemist despite all the barriers that men and society put in her way. Other characters in the book such as her daughter, Mad, her friend Harriet and even the dog are much more relatable and provide the book with many of its lighter moments.
This was a really interesting story and a good reminder of how bad things used to be for women in the not too distant past. 
Thank you to Net Galley and Random House UK for providing me with this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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My new favourite heroine (and dog!). Witty, absorbing and original. This book is a total joy and one of my best reads of the year so far.
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This book was a bit of a disappointment for me.  The blurb describes it as "laugh out loud" which it definitely is not.  In fact I found the story very sad and sometimes  depressing. 

I found most of the characters a little flat and unlikeable.  All except the dog, six thirty.  We quite often hear his point of view throughout the story and those are my favourite parts.   It may have been nice for the whole story to be told on the voice of the dog. 

The book had such promise but didn't quite hit the mark for me.  However I appear to be in the minority with my opinion.
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Lessons in Chemistry 

One of the the most anticipated books of 2022, I’d heard so many good things about Lessons in Chemistry by Bobbie Garmus that I was a little intimidated to start it.

The story follows the original and refreshing Elizabeth Zott,  chemist first and woman second, who knows her own mind in 1960s America. A woman with an opinion? Surely not… 

We follow Elizabeth from lab assistant to unemployment to fronting Supper At Six, a television cooking show more science than seasoning. Not only is she teaching women how to cook, she’s daring them to challenge the status quo…

Elizabeth is dazzling. She is incredibly smart, eloquent and daring. She is also a woman, and with that comes an automatic assumption that she is inferior, unintelligent and only has value because she is attractive. This is infuriating! I got so angry reading this book at how sexist society used to be only a few decades ago. 

Despite the intense anger this book caused, Elizabeth is a shining light. She is fiesty, unapologetic and steadfast in her values. She fights back against the system as best she can, making her one of my stand out heroines of contemporary literature. 

Her adamant insistence that she should be treated the same as any male could come across as naïve at that time but I felt she came across as demanding what any woman would demand now as our right. 

I did find this book a little hard to get fully engaged in, but I think this may have been a problem with me rather than the book. Reading whilst tired is never the greatest idea! 

The last 150 pages just flew by, and I hope there is more Elizabeth Zott in our future.

Lessons in Chemistry, and Elizabeth, taught me so much, it’s hard to believe this is a debut. One of my stand out reads of 2022.
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Lessons in Chemistry is a unique story, mixing dark subjects with a humour and lightness.
Elizabeth Zott is a chemist who has met discrimination at many turns of her life. Being an ardent feminist does not help her along her way. As her life takes surprising twists and turns she becomes a TV cook / chemist and can spread her message to the women who need it.
I really enjoyed this tale of such an unlikely heroine. A great cast of characters, including her very special dog, makes for an amusing read despite the hard times they go through.
Thanks to Netgalley for the copy in return for a review.
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I absolutely loved this book and sped through it in two sittings. It manages to be witty, hilarious, inspiring and devastating. Bonnie Garmus’ prose sparkles and fizzes off the page in this is fast-moving page turner, detailing the life of Elizabeth. An absolute must read and worthy of all the praise it has received!
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Oh my. What an original, brilliant and witty story. I haven’t read anything like this before and loved Elizabeth Zott from the very beginning. 
This story will make you laugh, cry, feel enraged and encouraged, but most of all it will make you feel. 
I loved Elizabeth’s view on life - her strength and beliefs and how she influenced so many living on her own terms. 
With brilliant characters and a great storyline, Lessons in Chemistry is one of those reads that will stay with me for a long time and is certainly a contender for book of the year for me.
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Trigger warning: rape, sexual abuse, death, suicide. 

Lessons in Chemistry was thoroughly enjoyable. I loved the concept, with Elizabeth Zott leading the narrative as a woman in the 1950s wanting to make leaps and bounds in science and the adversity and often unexpected encouragement she experiences along the way. No matter what she experiences, sometimes from her own self belief and in others the belief others have in her, would push her forward in her conviction. Some parts were devastating to read, and yet important to the story, and such moments would propel me forward in wanting to desperately know if it does, in fact, all work out in the end. The book was not predictable and yet it felt as if every woman could definitely relate, at least in some parts, to Elizabeth's experiences (given that this is written in an era which feels almost historic today, I am not sure if this is a depressing revelation of how much, or little, progress we have made today). Again, I would say it is inspiring, the book has a strong message about women in science, not letting race, gender or religion hold you back from achieving your true potential which I found brilliant (there is so much to take away from this one). Issues were dealt with the correct importance and yet there were also spurts of humour which could make you laugh out loud at the most unexpected of times. I have a particular soft spot for Six-Thirty. Loved this and would highly recommend. Thank you @netgalley @RandomHouseUK @TransworldPublishers for an advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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