Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus | #bookreview | @DoubleDayUK @PenguinUKBooks @BonnieGarmus

Finally, not only have I read (or listened to, to be accurate) Lessons in Chemistry but I can now share my review. I had to wait a bit, partly because it took a long time for my library audiobook reservation to arrive and partly because my friend chose it for book group and I couldn’t possibly share my thoughts before we had our discussion last night!

About the book

Your ability to change everything – including yourself – starts here

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.

But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Forced to resign, she reluctantly signs on as the host of a cooking show, Supper at Six. But her revolutionary approach to cooking, fuelled by scientific and rational commentary, grabs the attention of a nation.

Soon, a legion of overlooked housewives find themselves daring to change the status quo. One molecule at a time.

My Thoughts

Elizabeth Zott is most definitely not your typical 60s woman and certainly is not going to bend to what society thinks a woman should be. As a scientist, she trusts in facts and makes herself rather unpopular with many of her fellow scientists at the Research Institute where she works, mostly men of course. All except Calvin Evans, as between them there is respect and real chemistry.

Elizabeth’s working life is quite an eye-opener. She was rarely taken seriously despite being highly intelligent, often much more so than the men she worked with. The office politics of 1960s America, especially in the scientific environment, were quite infuriating to read about from a 21st century point of view. This is a time where, as one character points out, women can’t even sign a cheque without it being co-signed by a man. Women’s work is not recognised or valued and their achievements are dismissed. Men often take credit for their work. Elizabeth Zott bucks the norm and refuses to dumb herself down or conform. When a combination of circumstances lead to her unfair dismissal, she becomes a reluctant tv star. Even then, she only does the cookery show Supper at Six so she can discuss the science of cooking with American women and encourage them to value their skills and contributions and to follow their own dreams.

Elizabeth Zott is obviously the most important character in this book but it would be remiss of me not to mention some of the other characters. Her daughter Mad is very precocious and shares her mother’s can-do attitude to life. She’s tenacious and determined. TV producer Walter Pine who gives Elizabeth her break in TV and who despairs at what she comes out with sometimes, is a wonderful caring character and his devotion to his daughter is particularly touching. Elizabeth’s neighbour Harriet becomes an invaluable help to her, enabling her to continue to work even though she has a small child. In turn, Elizabeth inspires Harriet not to settle for the unhappy marriage she finds herself stuck in. And of course, there is her dog Six-Thirty, one of the best canine characters I’ve read about in fiction.

I absolutely loved this book and couldn’t wait to find out all about Elizabeth and her career. Elizabeth Zott is an inspiring fictional icon. She’s a fantastic creation, one I certainly won’t forget. Believe the hype and get yourself a copy of this book to read or listen to as soon as possible. You’ll thank me, I promise! I can’t wait to read what Bonnie Garmus writes next.

About the Author

Bonnie Garmus is a copywriter and creative director who has worked for a wide range of clients, in the US and abroad, focusing primarily on technology, medicine, and education. She’s an open water swimmer, a rower, and mother to two pretty amazing daughters. Most recently from Seattle, she currently lives in London with her husband and her dog, 99.

8 thoughts on “Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus | #bookreview | @DoubleDayUK @PenguinUKBooks @BonnieGarmus

  1. I loved this too. I bought the special edition hardback with periodic table edges when it was first published, I was so keen to keep it in pristine condition that I waiting weeks for a library ebook copy so I could actually read it! I think my OCD of keeping book’s pristine really needs to be overcome!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for this review. I am definitely going to read this. Interestingly, Bonnie Garmus was mentioned in the papers today as an example of an ‘older’ writer gaining success with a debut novel later in life. She is in her sixties I believe. Imagine what it was like to be Marie Curie in the second half of the 19th century, if it was still so hard to be a lady scientist in the 1960s!

    Liked by 2 people

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