Lessons In Chemistry
By Bonnie Garmus
Lessons in Chemistry By Bonnie Garmus is a successful debut novel. It has made it onto Between the Covers on BBC 2, presented by Sara Cox and is a bestseller and even captured the attention of the New York Times to become on their bestselling list. It is available in hardback. Now, ahead of the paperback launch in March 2023, I have been gifted a hardback copy by Alison Barrow at the publisher- Transworld, in-exchange of an honest review. Travel back to the 1960’s, or just below to discover the blurb and my review.
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 as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results.
But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.
Be transported back to the 1950’s and 1960’s with chemist – Elizabeth Zott. It’s easy to do. The first page shows how different the world was then, even in day to day things many people possibly take for granted nowadays like seatbelts. The book shows how attitudes and how things are handled these days were better back then, but how women like Elizabeth Zott gives as a good as they get. There’s a strong thread of early feminism throughout in her beliefs, her chosen workplace, her ability to go to university, her kick-ass approach to certain situations in all areas. It’s refreshing to show that feminism is not new and has been around in some form or another for many years, even further back than the time-scale in this book to a certain extent.
Elizabeth Zott is a chemist at The Hastings Research Institute, USA; or rather, she was in the 1950’s, before she was catapulted further into the public consciousness in the 1960’s on a tv show – Supper for Six, where she became a tv cook. She met successful scientist – Calvin Evans, whilst working for the institute, after graduating at Cambridge, England. A guy with a passion for rowing and a very impressive ability to hold grudges, even more than Elizabeth. He also very much wants to love. There is much humour between him and his Cambridge rowing team-mates. There is much humour throughout the book and the reaction Elizabeth and Calvin have for each other as chemistry of the romantic kind of swirls, is even more so. It’s also tender and sweet, especially where Calvin is concerned.
There are the most unexpected twists, one in-particular comes with a hard whack and yet is perfectly done and comes just at the right time to continue this being the unexpected compelling, rather addictive read it is.
Even with the twists, some which are dark, the humour and the pushing of boundaries continues and evolves to her child, Madeline (Mad) and also onto the TV set. Through the anger, some that’s perfectly reasonable, especially the way women are put into boxes (still happens today, but with everyone) and more… but sometimes a bit silly, such as over school assignments… Surprisingly, it has a nice sentimentality, such as over a dog called Thirty Six. Readers will find out why that name during the book.
This is a book I very much recommend. It has something for everyone in what is a strong debut.
Lessons In Chemistry is available in hardback now and in spring this year, it will be published in paperback.