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Lessons in Chemistry

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Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9780385547345..

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.

Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published March 31, 2022

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About the author

Bonnie Garmus

5 books7,845 followers
Bonnie Garmus is a copywriter and creative director who’s worked widely in the fields of technology, medicine, and education. She’s an open-water swimmer, a rower, and mother to two pretty amazing daughters. Born in California and most recently from Seattle, she currently lives in London with her husband and her dog, 99.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 78,015 reviews
Profile Image for JanB .
1,182 reviews2,787 followers
April 23, 2022
1.5 stars
The synopsis describes this book as “laugh out loud funny”, recommended for fans of Where’d You Go Bernadette and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

A female chemist in the ‘50s? Great! Count me in.

BUT….I obviously read a different book.

- this book should be shelved in the fantasy section. Seriously. It’s fantasy. Which is fine, but if I had known I would have skipped it. The switch between fantastical elements and serious ones gave me whiplash.

- Funny? Within a few pages a woman is called a c*** twice, a brutal rape is described in detail, and there’s a suicide due to homophobia. Yeah, just hilarious.

- I’m over quirky characters who behave as if they are on the spectrum. Why can’t we have a woman who is a brilliant chemist but isn’t naive, socially awkward, and clueless? Except when she’s not, usually in time to deliver another monologue.

- the MC’s daughter is a genius who knew the periodic table as a preschooler and reads the Sound and the Fury at age 8. Of course she is. Very relatable.

- Elizabeth’s views and actions were not consistent with the era. It’s as if a woman from 2022 time traveled back to the 1950s and then lectured everyone with lengthy monologues on social issues and women’s rights. I don’t need a lecture and I don’t need to be repeatedly hit over the head on relevant social issues. This book needed more showing, less telling.

- the message is a worthy one. A woman ahead of her time in STEM who must fight the status quo in a male dominated world. But I think the message would have been stronger and more authentic if it had been realistic. There’s a lot of exaggeration and preposterous situations to drive a point home, which is not my favorite storytelling technique.

- all the men, with one exception, were ugly and hateful misogynists. I’m weary of male-bashing in fiction.

- Did I need to read details of a man who masturbates and flings pubic hairs across the room, leaving behind his sticky porn magazines for his wife to clean up? No I did not 🤮

- Atheism vs Faith. The author mentions multiple times that this is a free country and we have a right to our beliefs. I 100% agree. But she apparently believes only atheists have a right to their beliefs. I’m no bible thumping extremist, but it’s offensive when religion and people of faith are portrayed only in derogatory terms, such as faith is “a simpleton’s recipe for prayers and beads” and a funeral service was “boring verse and preposterous prayers”. A minister muses that the problem with his job “was how many times he had to lie”. The ministers and priests were all child abusers, liars, and greedy crooks. Lay people of faith were all violent protestors and/or morons. The message repeatedly driven home throughout the book, ad nauseam? Atheism = good People of faith = bad.

Believe me, if the author had portrayed atheists as all bad I would find it equally as offensive. Why is intolerance of beliefs/religion the last acceptable prejudice?

- I’m weary of the argument of science vs religion. Sure there are extremists who deny science but the majority of people and religions do not believe they are mutually exclusive. There are plenty of religious scientists. Sigh….

- Anachronisms. Subsidized child care in Sweden wasn’t enacted until 1975, although the MC refers to it in 1960. And was defunding the police a thing in the early 1950s? I think not.

- certainly women have been, and are, discriminated against. I’m not denying that bias occurs but the exaggeration and preposterous events in the story hinders the message. I have a science degree. I took many college courses in STEM. I worked in a male dominated work culture. In this book every single man in a power position was a misogynist. Not realistic. Please stop it..

- Also, we are given information at the end that suggests there was a valid reason Elizabeth wasn’t accepted in the doctoral program, that had nothing to do with her gender or an incident that happened early in the book. This confused me?! What was the message? 🤷🏻‍♀️

No book is without merit. The positives:

- I am not usually a fan of anthropomorphism but I loved the dog, Six-Thirty. By far he was my favorite character. And yay, he survives! 😍

- the cooking show was cute

* this was a buddy read with Marialyce and another book to throw on top of the 2022 disappointing reads category.

* I received a digital copy for review via NetGalley. All opinions are my own
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,302 reviews43.9k followers
September 9, 2023
I gave all of my votes to this book, both for the best debut and historical fiction categories, at the Goodreads Choice Awards. I'm thrilled to find out that Barnes & Noble has chosen this brilliant work as the book of the year - it is highly deserved!

Amazing news, my friends! This fantastic book has been adapted into a streaming series on Apple TV, starring Brie Larson as Elizabeth Zott and an outstanding cast crew including Lewis Pullman, Beau Bridges, Ana Naomi King, Kevin Sussman, Thomas Mann, Stephanie Koenig, and Patrick Walker. I cannot wait to binge-watch it!

Okay, folks, I just finished the best book of 2022! Now I can relax knowing that I don't need to search for something better. No, wait, I lied. Not about finding the best book - this one is freaking amazing - but I will continue to search for exemplary fictions like this that can speak to my heart and soul at the same time! I give it five gazillion stars!

I loved the author's extra-intelligent, dark, original sense of humor, and I fell in love with her characters. The story of Elizabeth brought out so many complex feelings: I laughed, I got angry, I cried, I sighed, I laughed again, and as soon as I finished the last chapter, I gave my ovation! This is an underrated secret gem! Don't you dare skip this book or let it sit in your TBR pile. Just read it!

Let me give you a summary of the plot and introduce you to the characters:

Elizabeth Zott: How can I express my feelings about this character? She's so unique, different, extraordinary, visionary, extremely quirky, odd, straightforward, honest, a real feminist, intelligent, intellectual, fighter, survivor, and a brilliant scientist who is brave enough to fight for her rights and her loved ones against mansplaining, inequality, abuse, and humiliation!

In 1960, after her traumatic experience at UCLA, she starts working at the Hastings Research Institute, which is administered with a male workforce that ignores her enthusiasm and hard work. Only one person sees her and shows respect for her accomplishments: an aspiring, Nobel Prize-nominated, grudge-holder named Calvin Evans.

The first time they met, he thought she was a secretary, and the second time they met, he vomited on her. There is nothing ordinary about their love story. They are soul mates. They are great minds alike. They are the quirkiest, most unconventional couple. They row together. They adopt the ugliest and most loyal, incredible dog and name him Six-Thirty. They were happy, even though Elizabeth rejected marrying him because she wanted to become an independent scientist without being acknowledged for her husband's contributions.
But then...

We fast-forward to see Elizabeth building a new life, raising her four-year-old, extra-smart, one-of-a-kind, sweetest girl named Mad Zott, helping their dog Six-Thirty improve his vocabulary skills, and most importantly, she's a TV star now! She teaches women to use chemistry not only in their kitchen but in their entire life to embrace change and challenges. She hosts the most eccentric cooking show called "Supper at Six."

Her blunt and honest comments about marriage, religion, and society's norms will be considered rebellious and unconventional.

Elizabeth is not alone. She has a 55-year-old, devoted neighbor named Harriet Sloane, who truly detests her husband. She has her supporting producer, Walter Pine, who believed in her enough to give her a chance on TV while raising his daughter by himself. Dr. Mason likes to row with her, stopping by to wash her dishes and check her out.

But Mad thinks her mother is unhappy, and her homework to create a family tree pushes her to search for more information about her father's past. She has no idea that her search will uncover many long-kept secrets.
Overall, this is the best book I have read lately! I fell in love with everything about this story and highly, extremely, and absolutely recommend it.

Profile Image for Pallas.
10 reviews53 followers
August 15, 2022
This book is mind-numbingly bad. I really do not see what everybody writing rave reviews are seeing. So, I'm a chemist and this main character is exactly the type of chemist that we make fun of - a pretentious snob that non-ironically calls household items by their scientific name and inserts their scientific knowledge into any conversation they have to assert how intelligent they are. There's a part where she criticizes a can of soup for having 'chemicals' in it, even though a chemist should know all food that exists is made of chemicals - that is literally how the world works, so on top of being an arrogant snot she is also an incorrect arrogant snot on multiple occasions.

Another point I'd like to bring up as a chemist, Elizabeth Zott apparently has several PhDs worth of knowledge, on degrees that she didn't even do. Her passion apparently is abiogenesis, to which actual scientists dedicate their entire academic careers solely, yet she also knows food science (an entirely different course of study) and can also teach herself how to row solely by reading physics textbooks (another entirely different course of study). It must be where her ridiculous daughter got her ridiculous genes from - she enthusiastically reads Norman Mailer and Vladimir Nabokov at age 4. I mean, didn't we all? She also debates religion with a reverend, who converts to atheism. Again, relatable pre-school experiences we all experienced.

I'm also fairly sick of women putting down other women in all aspects of life, and this is no exception. Almost every other woman in this story is presented as catty, conniving and simple-minded (because they all believe in God, which this book hammers in that only total airheads do) except for our main character because she's not like the other girls. She wears pants and talks about how Sweden has subsidized childcare (which didn't even exist in 1960 yet so I guess the author phoned in on the whole research aspect). There is also no mention of any characters of color in this story, but that doesn't stop the author from comparing being a housewife to SLAVERY and including the daughter reading about the Congo cannibals to other-ize people of African descent. Bear in mind, that this is marketed as a comedy book. So ha ha. Every male character is also a chauvinistic pig with no redeeming qualities, also always hysterical.

I didn't even touch on the most offensive part of this novel. TW: the beginning features a graphic r*pe scene, so good thing they didn't bother including a content warning. 'A novel that sparks joy on every page' claims the dust jacket, I claim bullsh*t.

In summary, there are no redeeming qualities about this book, except maybe that there was a dog in it.
Profile Image for Yun.
521 reviews21.7k followers
September 8, 2023
Imagine if all men took women seriously . . .
When you come across that perfect read, at what point do you realize? For me, it was from the very first page of Lessons in Chemistry.

Honestly, who does Bonnie Garmus think she is, coming in here and writing a book that completely speaks to me? And on top of that, it's her debut. Well, just knock me over with a feather too while you're at it, why don't you!

Elizabeth Zott is a chemist in the 1960s. The problem is, she is the only one who views herself that way. Her male colleagues cannot get past the fact that she's a woman, and treat her more as a secretary and doormat, acknowledging her only long enough to steal her work. That is, until Calvin Evans, another brilliant chemist, comes along and really sees all that she is capable of. But life is unexpected, and so a few years later, Elizabeth is somehow the host of a cooking show. But in her heart, she still desires to be truly seen as a chemist.

You guys know how much I love strong female characters, and Elizabeth Zott is all that and more. She's fearless in the face of adversity, she stays true to herself, and she never lets others intimidate her into being less than all she can be. In other words, she is my hero.

It's not just Elizabeth who warms my heart. This story has the most wonderful collection of supporting characters. They add so much color and spirit to the whole thing. I wanted to hug them all. And if you're an animal lover of any sort, just be ready to have your heart burst into a million ooey gooey pieces. In fact, Six-Thirty might just be my favorite literary dog of all time.

The writing is so witty and brilliant. There's a zing to it that makes it feel zippy and wholly original. I couldn't stop laughing and I couldn't put it down. Usually I can't wait to reach the end of a book so I can check it off my long TBR and move onto the next. But I wanted this to go and go and never end. I tried to savor every moment, but I ended up devouring it.

What an absolute delight this was, from the very first moment to the last. It possesses all the hallmarks of the very best stories. It made me laugh, feel, think, and wonder. It filled me with joy and buoyed my spirits. It gave me everything I wanted and everything I didn't even know to ask for.

So many books come and go that often a true gem ends up buried in the deluge. Please don't let this one pass you by. Go read it. You'll be glad you did.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews588 followers
April 6, 2022
After seeing endless 5 star reviews of “Lessons in Chemistry, a book I hadn’t considered reading….
— I thought- “Well, Wow…..it must be extraordinary—some secret I should find out?/!”

My enjoyment value was simply ‘so-so’. I didn’t come away with the enthusiasm for this book like many other readers did.

In my own life in ‘California’ - during the 50’s, 60’s….
I was a Kinesiology major at UC Berkeley.
I never felt like I was in a man’s world. My organic chemistry classes were grueling- but that wasn’t because I was a woman.
In my experience— I never had a problem. I wasn’t sexually harassed — nobody put their hand up my skirt unless I wanted them to . I was never patted on the head or belittle for being less than.

There was something ‘off-putting’ to me about this book —
The protagonist -Elizabeth Zott - was as equally fatuous as intelligent.

I found the dialogue often condescending….with overly exaggerated themes.
The theme ‘righteous indignation’ stood out for me more than ‘authentic equality’.
Plus…..the humor lost me completely.
The science descriptions felt more ‘for show’ — an indulgent plot device to produce proof of
high levels of dopamine chemicals in the areas of love.
I prefer what George Burns’ had to say about love:
“Love is something like a backache, it doesn’t show up on any x-ray, but you know it’s there”.

I wasn’t a champion for Elizabeth Zott,
The emphasis of her being ahead of her day; a strong woman; or a groundbreaking woman felt false-hearted.
Her bogus disposition was too fabricated for my taste.
Most of the characters had that caricature type feeling; unscrupulous.

Basically — the story wasn’t “zippy, zesty, or zotty” entertaining to me at all.

Although I was overall underwhelmed, I did enjoy the authors notes - (my absolute favorite part) - she almost sold me on how groundbreaking her book was.
Her enthusiasm had a contagious magnetism about her. I appreciated her passion for her excitement in writing this book —
Congrats to Bonnie Garmus….
she has a large audience who applaud her work sincerely.
So —
please don’t pass on this book - on my accounts -
it just wasn’t my cuppa tea.

Average, lukewarm, to indifferent.
2.5 - rating up.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,990 reviews298k followers
December 20, 2022
Sorry, but I don't get the hype.

I found this mostly boring, to be honest. The book zips from really dark subjects like rape and abuse to light somewhat farcical subjects like teaching a dog English or Elizabeth becoming an amazing rower by studying physics (women can smart their way into being better than six foot athletic men at everything because saying they can't is sexist, yo)... and I struggled to find any of it compelling.

Elizabeth was difficult to warm to --not because of her abrasive personality-- because she felt like a mouthpiece for 21st Century feminist monologues. This is supposed to be the 1950s? I just didn't buy it. All her rants are straight out of a modern day Smash the Patriarchy podcast.

And it deserves a further eye roll for the fact that because she is all into science and logic and whatever, this means Elizabeth is also cold, robotic and devoid of emotion. Cos we all know you can't be a scientist AND have feelings. Maybe the author worried if she showed emotion we'd find her too womanly.

I don't know what else to say. The reviews called it "hilarious", which I did not think it was. And also "adorable" which... what? On page rape, death, abuse, suicide and sexism... super cute.

The book does sort of lighten up as it progresses, but it did not get any less boring.
Profile Image for Lisa.
454 reviews72 followers
May 5, 2022
I could've saved time and read a laundry list of cliches instead of reading this book.

Lessons in Chemistry was rife with issues. A non-exhaustive list:

🧪Elizabeth is a SCIENTIST in the 1950s but reads like someone time traveled back from 2022 just to spout feminist monologues at anyone within earshot!!!

🧪Elizabeth is an elite rower on her very first day!!!! No need for any background in sports whatsoever!!! She can keep up with 6'4" men! Makes perfect sense bc......... feminism!! Keeping up with the boys!!! Etc!

🧪Elizabeth is VERY SEXY. She neither knows nor cares that she is sexy, puts no effort into her appearance, but the author makes sure we know that she is The Hot One. bc she is smart AND sexy. Or something.

🧪Elizabeth is a SCIENTIST, ergo she only thinks in LOGIC. She is actually a cyborg without feelings and without any idea of how human interactions work!! We know this based on how cringy every single interaction she has is!!!

🧪Elizabeth uses aforementioned LOGIC to disprove religion!!!! Checkmate, theists everywhere!!!!! Elizabeth has cracked the case!!!!!

Overall, extremely ridiculous and unrealistic. Next.
December 10, 2022

This is one of the most unusual books I’ve read this year.

Elizabeth Zott is not your average person. She’s a brilliant, highly trained scientist who hasn’t gotten farther along in the world of chemistry simply because she’s a woman. She is working at the Hastings Institute performing a job that she is completely over qualified for!

Through some crazy, at times hilarious encounter, she meets Calvin Evans. He is a gangly sort of guy but also a brilliant scientist and well-known at the Hastings Institute. Calvin had an intense love for rowing, that’s why he accepted the job at this lowly Institute when he could have been doing research at any number of universities. He came to California for the nice weather and the ability to row all year long.

Fast forward and Elizabeth has a daughter named Madeline, Mad for short. Elizabeth was trying to work as a scientist at a lab in her home. She is a consultant for scientists who need and want her help, but it’s not enough to provide for herself and her daughter.

Half way through the book I was already completely into the story and the amazing characters! What a unique and multi-layered plot.

For reasons you will discover she begins a very unique cooking show!!!! I love to see her fiery spirit and determination to get what she wants, to dress how she wants. She is determined to raise her child how she wants. All the while she knows that she’s doing things outside of the normal or “average” mother, although Elizabeth would tell you that scientifically there is no “average person”!!!!

This novel is fresh and innovative with characters just flying off the pages. I loved her new acquaintance, Walter, who talked her into doing the 6 o’clock show. He wants entertainment and she wants science in this cooking show!!!!

I LOVED EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK!!! I would like to give it more than 5*. I highly recommend this novel to EVERYONE, especially if you are a woman and have ever been looked down upon simply because you are female!!!

I also wanted to add that there is a lot of humor in this book! And how could I forget “six thirty” the dog who know 600+ words! He is a narrator throughout the novel.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss. It was my pleasure to read and review this title.
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,194 reviews3,031 followers
April 5, 2022
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

It's the early 60s and chemist Elizabeth Zott is causing her usual ruckus at Hastings Research Institute. For one thing, she can't be a real chemist for the simple fact that she's a woman. Also, she won't make copies, get coffee, or do any of the other woman's work at the institute, and she's so cold and prickly she doesn't want to be touched or groped and isn't willing to provide "favors". Those are the reasons the men don't like Elizabeth. The women don't like her because she's attractive, she turns the heads of the men, and she doesn't know her place as a woman in a man's world.

Also working at Hastings is Calvin Evans, a brilliant Noble prize nominee who has his very own massive lab where he can do who knows what and win more accolades. No one likes him either. Neither Calvin or Elizabeth care if anyone likes them, they just want to be left alone to do their jobs. But one day Elizabeth needs beakers and she knows Calvin has beakers so she barges into his lab and takes some. It's not love at first sight but it's pretty close and soon Elizabeth and Calvin are a very happy couple to the disdain of everyone who wishes them misery and failure.

Elizabeth and Calvin even get a dog and name him Six-thirty. Then fate intervenes and Elizabeth and Six-thirty are on their own until baby Mad is born. Elizabeth never wanted children and she certainly never wanted to be a single mother. Elizabeth never wanted to be famous for a cooking show that she gets wrangled into hosting, either, but when money is tight, something has to give and now Elizabeth is fighting with her cooking show bosses rather than her Hastings Research Institute bosses. Elizabeth is famous for all the wrong reasons (according to her bosses) while the women who are glued to her show five days a week are seeing all the opportunities they never knew they had, to be more than housewives and mothers.

This is a very funny story, with Six-thirty and Mad winning my heart immediately. It took a lot longer for me to warm up to Elizabeth but I finally did towards the end of the story. Life isn't fair, in fact, it's so unfair as to be criminal, and Elizabeth isn't sure how long she can go slogging along, not doing what she wants to do, which is important research as a chemist. There are a lot of really good side characters, a lot of really horrible side characters, and always, there is Calvin, locked away in Elizabeth's heart and dreams. I did have some issues with the story but overall it is humorous, clever, and allows Elizabeth to shine in all her intelligent glory. Even an afternoon cooking show can't hold her down or make her bend to what she doesn't believe.

Pub: April 5th 2022

Thank you to Doubleday Books and NetGalley for this ARC.
Profile Image for Eli.
80 reviews124 followers
April 27, 2022
(I'd recommend reading Jan's review (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), because it gets at a lot of the stuff I had an issue with in this book.)

I had misgivings going into this, because its premise is 'one fierce woman in the 1960s teaches the housewives of America uses her cooking show to teach the housewives of America what they're worth,' and that's a big white feminist fantasy red flag to me. Turns out, I was right, but oh my God I didn't know the half of it. This book is insane in ways that I couldn't even remotely predict from the premise.

So this book centres on Elizabeth Zott, an impossibly intelligent woman with perfect 21st-century politics (also she's beautiful but she doesn't, like, care about that) who's been inexplicably plopped into a 1950s setting. She's a self-taught chemist, working on abiogenesis, which the book appears to think can low-key disprove religion (this book has a very weird relationship to religion - edgelord atheist vibes), but because it's the 1950s, she's forced out of her doctoral programme and undervalued at work. She strikes up a relationship with a powerful chemist who adores her, but he dies in an accident, leaving her unwed, pregnant and fired, doing consultation work so the men at her old lab can actually understand their results. Undeterred, she builds a lab at home, and ends up getting hired to a local cooking programme, which she converts into a serious scientific cooking programme that the housewives of America love because She Treats Them Like Adults.

This all sounds relatively OK at first glance, but the tone is very off. This book is a mix of jaunty comedy and family drama, but there's a really graphic rape scene very early in the book, even though the spectre of rape is then played for laughs later because Elizabeth is All Powerful Now (another man pathetically waddles towards her with his trousers down, she pulls out a 14-inch knife and he has a heart attack on the spot). Structural misogyny is there enough to drive the book, but can also always be overcome through force of will or nicely timed plot conveniences. One of her viewers, a housewife with five kids, goes and becomes a doctor solely because Elizabeth is like 'yeah, sure, you can do that. Go take the tests.' Elizabeth literally says she's an atheist on air, pulls out a picture of Rosa Parks while chopping tomatoes, calls a sponsor 'poison', and this is depicted as causing a couple death threats and one half-baked bomb attempt, while her programme gets more and more popular. In 1960!

So this book is a white liberal's dream: a woman blithely advocating gender and racial equality in a book with no characters of colour, where structural prejudice falls away if you're smart and correct and righteous enough. The instances of misogyny are all incredibly heavy-handed and didactic, with cartoonish misogynist men or silly unfeminist women who all say things like 'women should know their place' and 'blue is for boys and pink is for girls.' I hate, hate, hate how so many books right now treat their readers like they're idiots who don't know the absolute basics about history and context; at one point, Lessons in Chemistry actually says 'In the 1950s, abortion was out of the question.' As if we didn't know! Or couldn't be told in a less hamfisted way!

But there's also one thing that ratchets up the ridiculous factor: the use of chemistry. God, the use of chemistry. I want to give this to a chemist so they choke to death on their own spit. To be clear, I'm not a pedant, or not too much of one - I don't care if literary fiction for nonspecialists is perfect on every point of chemistry. I care that its idea of a hyperintelligent chemist is one that says 'pass the sodium chloride' instead of 'pass the salt,' or sometimes calls water 'H2O', or calls vinegar 'acetic acid' (which is like calling orange juice 'citric acid', they're not the same thing), or says that they 'almost lost an atom in the isomerization process' while baking (what???). Madeline makes 'mud pies' by drawing 3.1415 in the mud. It's a very teenage nerd kind of approach, with an accompanying shot of the aforementioned edgelord atheism, and an instance of Elizabeth Publicly Owning a vegetarian by saying plants are also alive. In a couple of episodes of the programme, I glimpsed what a good implementation of the chemistry conceit might look like (the one with potato skin and glycoalkaloids was good), but too often it's cringe - particularly the extended metaphor around 'bonds' or the book's steadfast conviction that saying 'we had chemistry' is a deep and powerful statement.

I'm not even going to get into the family drama that is technically kind of the core of the book, because it's convoluted and boring and appears to be there solely because there needs to be some resolution that isn't 'and the whole country became feminist. Hooray!'. But essentially, this book is entertaining (sometimes intentionally) but is also completely detached from any actual feminist politic, wilfully ignorant of class and race, hilariously inept vis-a-vis its central conceit, bludgeoningly unsubtle, and has independently rediscovered the fanfiction concept of the 'Mary Sue'. And it includes a dog that understands language and can talk to foetuses.

P.S. Cambridge doesn't have rowing scholarships!
Profile Image for Abi Mallett.
252 reviews17 followers
April 7, 2022
This contains trigger warnings.

*sigh* I wanted to like this, I really did, and based on the premise I should have.

First of all this is described as "laugh out loud", it isn't. It's also described as being in the same vein as 'The Marvellous Mrs Maisel,' it isn't.

For something that is decribed as being hilarious, there was an awful lot of dark subject matter. While I understand that humour can be found in dark places etc, this wasn't it. The tone of the book was all over the place, like it didn't know what it wanted to be. It thought it was smarter and funnier than it was. I genuinely struggle to see what was so hilarious, I was mildly amused in some instances at most.

During this 'hilarious' story, there is a brutal rape in chapter 3, death of a spouse, implied paedaphilia, abuse, abandonment, bullying, a second sexual assault and sexism. Again, I don't have a problem with the subject matter, I do have a problem with the execution of the subjects and the marketing of the book.

Elizabeth as a main character just isn't that likeable. I get that she is supposed to be super intelligent and 'quirky' but she doesn't feel like a real person for much of the book, there is nothing to connect to. She also speaks like she is quoting from a textbook about sexism and feminism which does not feel genuine or organic. It felt more like the author was lecturing us. Also don't get me started about her daughter and how intelligent and advanced she was at a ridiculously young age. Of course she had a genius daughter. *eye roll*

The cooking show doesn't come into play until at least half way through the book. Theres also a subplot regarding her husband's parentage which just felt...tiring by that point to be honest. Oh...we also get the dogs POV for alot of the story, which was a choice. To be fair, I was more invested and in the dog than Elizabeth and would have preferred the whole book in his voice. At least you could connect with him...the dog. 🤔

The 2nd half of the book was a little better than the first and it had a more positive ending at least. I've given it 2 stars because I did like the love story between Elizabeth and Calvin, as short lived as it was. It was very sweet, with two lonely nerds and outcasts meeting and forming such a strong bond.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ceecee.
2,078 reviews1,657 followers
September 30, 2021
I don’t think anything I can say will do this book justice. I love it from beginning to end and it will most certainly be in my top five reads of 2021.

It’s November 1961 and chemist Elizabeth Zott, who works at the Hastings Institute, has fallen into a TV role hosting ‘Supper at Six’ and has become an unlikely star in the ascendant. Cooking is chemistry, chemistry is life. Elizabeth is far from your average ‘60’s woman. For a start she’s a single mother to Mad Zott, shock, horror, especially to Mad’s odious teacher. Have I mentioned the dog, Six-Thirty? A divine canine, a failed bomb detection dog of remarkable emotional intelligence. Ten years earlier, same Institute, Calvin Evans, introvert, grudge holder, a genius, an exceptionally good rower and desperate to find a girlfriend meets Elizabeth Zott, also a grudge holder especially against the patriarchy. Chemistry in every sense of the word.

Ok, here goes. It’s inspiring, heartwarming, sad, joyous, intelligent, funny, witty, quirky, original,highly entertaining, life affirmingly brilliant and genius in my opinion! It captures the times, the patronising way women are treated ( can you see my lip curl and a developing snarl?) the assumptions, the blatant sexism and way worse which shocks you to the core even though you know it’s all true. She uses chemistry to reveal the dangers of a lob sided society which is completely one sided and to demonstrate the false limits on the potential of 50% of the population. It’s so cleverly done and I’m a science dunce but it made sense to me! The dialogue is excellent, at times it’s laugh out loud funny as it’s so well phrased or the mastery of a put down or understatement. Elizabeth is quite simply fabulous, I love her and want to be her but I’ll certainly need to mug up on the chemistry! Equally amazing is Mad and yes, let’s go back to the dog. As a massive dog lover to have Six-Thirty as a character in his own right is admirable and it works so well. I adore him and want to adopt him. The relationships are excellent too, some are a meeting of minds or to nurture, of love and admiration, of kinship and some are of professional jealousy or sabotage.

Overall, you’ll have gathered that I think this debut is amazing and I urge you to read it. It has every ingredient of a book that fascinates, delights, charms and engages. If for nothing else read it for Six-Thirty ... and to find his out he gets his name cos I’m not saying!!

With thanks to NetGalley and especially huge thanks to Random House UK, Transworld Doubleday for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.5k followers
December 16, 2022
delightful. wholesome. meaningful.
this made me believe in chemistry.

nothing more needs to be said.

4 stars
Profile Image for Whitney Erwin.
199 reviews
May 1, 2022
2.5 stars rounded up to 3. I have seen mostly all rave reviews from my friends on this one and thought I was going to love it too. I definitely had high hopes going into this book. For me personally, it was unfortunately just okay. It seemed to drag on and just wasn’t as interesting of a storyline as I hoped. I didn’t feel any real excitement reading it but I was happy with the ending. It’s readable and not a horrible book, just not for me.
Profile Image for Jayme.
1,188 reviews2,247 followers
April 6, 2022
WITTY and WONDERFUL -this is a MUST READ, laugh out loud DEBUT!

Meet Elizabeth Zott.
She is a brilliant Chemist, a staunch Atheist, and a determined Feminist.

Most probably “on the spectrum” ( though this wasn’t recognized as such in the 1960’s) and most DEFINITELY ahead of her time, refusing to accept the status quo.

In need of beakers for her Lab, she dares to take some from the Lab of Hasting Research Institute’s Nobel-prize nominated star-Calvin Evans-a loner who holds a grudge, but the result is nothing that could have been predicted! The two fall in love, adopt “Six Thirty”, the smartest and most resourceful dog EVER, and dare to move in together-out of wedlock. GASP!

But, this isn’t a “Happily Ever After” love story.

Fast forward a couple of years, and Elizabeth is now a single mother, with a PRECOCIOUS 4 year old to support. When she discovers another child is taking advantage of her daughter Mad (the name was accidental) during lunch break at school, she demands a face to face meeting with the little girl’s father.

She leaves with much more than an apology.

SOMEHOW, she has agreed to host a “cooking show” on TV-though she insists that her show is about Chemistry!

The now RELUCTANT star of “Supper at Six” refuses to wear sexy dresses, insisting instead on a lab coat and the #2 pencil ✏️ she ALWAYS wears in her hair, or tucked behind one ear. (See it on the adorable book cover!)

And, she won’t even recite the dinner ingredients in layman’s terms. YET, after the very FIRST episode airs, the station’s phones are ringing off the hook-

All, I can say is “VINEGAR” ! 🤐

Within 2 years, her show is a staple in every household, with those in the studio audience and at home taking notes -jotting down ingredients, recipes and chemical equations!

Elizabeth, despite her lack of smiles, and her “no nonsense” approach has somehow struck a chord with the “housewives” she thought she had nothing in common with. It seems that she is teaching them to do more than “cook a sensible, nourishing dinner”.

I loved tuning in to these episodes! 📺

With the help of her “wise beyond her years” child, her overachieving dog, and a community of wonderful supporting characters, Elizabeth Zott-may just “change the world” one “thirty minute lesson at a time”!

Thank You to Doubleday for my gifted copy! It was my pleasure to offer a candid review!
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,706 reviews25k followers
March 10, 2022
Set in the 1950s and 1960s, Bonnie Garmus's offbeat comedic historical debut is a joyous and vibrant delight that will wrap its tentacles around your heart with its central protagonist, single mother and research scientist, the smart and beautiful Elizabeth Zott, whose passion for science has her seeing the world and people through the lens of Chemistry. Unfortunately for her, she lives in a time where it is believed that women have no place in science, it's a world where men dominate, control, exploit, patronise and silence women, sexually harrassing, lying, cheating and stealing her research, publishing and passing it off as their own. It doesn't stop there, men feel they can sexually assault a woman, and it will be the woman who pays the price, Elizabeth is forced to leave, unable to complete her PhD, with the police expecting her to 'regret' her behaviour, such are the rage inducing social norms and attitudes of the time.

However, Elizabeth is no ordinary woman, she refuses to pander to fragile male egos, it worries her not one whit that she doesn't fit in at the patriarchal Hastings Institute, she accepts no limitations for herself, nor for anyone else. The chemistry between her and the star scientist, Calvin Evans, another man who does not fit either, leads to love, the two of them living together, Zott does not believe in marriage, and their religion is science. Circumstances result in Zott becoming a single mother to the precociously bright 4 year old, Mad, an early reader, voraciously consuming the likes of Norman Mailer and Charles Dickens. The challenges Zott faces, such as being fired for being pregnant and her dire financial circumstances has her becoming an unlikely, reluctant and uncompromising star, dressed in a lab coat, with her popular TV cooking show, Supper at Six, focusing on the chemistry of ingredients and recipes, carrying her subversive and radical agenda of making women question and challenge the cultural misogyny and the limitations placed on their lives. Needless to say, this makes her some implacable enemies.

What makes the strong and independent Zott able to face the unrelenting harsh pressures and problems that come her way are her close knit and growing family, at the centre of which is their protective genius dog no-one will be able to resist, Six-thirty, familiar with more than 600 words, neighbour Harriet Sloane, rower Dr Mason, her TV producer, Walter Pine, and the Reverend Wakely, perhaps we can include Miss Frask too. This is a remarkable, hilarious and unforgettable debut from Garmus, outrageously entertaining, with oodles of charm, and I have no doubt that this will be a runaway success on publication. Do yourself a favour and read this brilliant novel. Highly recommended! Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.
Profile Image for Southern Lady Reads.
442 reviews589 followers
April 10, 2023
Every single person I know needs to read this book. Not every woman.. every person.

An insightful, part tear-jerker, truly hilarious at times work with more than enough charisma to make you want to be the best version of yourself? That is Bonnie Garmus’s masterpiece: Lessons In Chemistry.

Find all my favorite #womeninSTEM novels here!

When Elizabeth Zott is growing up… the only thing she knows for certain is that she likes science. During the 1960s, while she was working at the Hastings Institute on groundbreaking research in abiogenesis – gender equality was nonexistent (even among scientists who should know better.) Life takes her through unexpected turns into falling in love with her co-worker Calvin Evans. Years later, as a single mother, Elizabeth finds herself the star of a live cooking show: Supper at Six. With her… unique… approach to cooking and can-do-attitude… Elizabeth finds herself teaching women more than to cook. She’s teaching them to value themselves and change the world.

This is one of those books that reminds us we can absolutely do anything we put our minds to, even in the face of challenging circumstances. So much of Elizabeth’s character revolves around building herself up and building up the women around her.. she somewhat reminds me of Jessica Chastain’s character in The Help? (Another incredible book/movie adaptation!) She doesn’t care that society’s expectations of her dictate a certain kind of life. The book’s take on what women really go through in the most thankless job in the world: motherhood and ‘keeping house’ are insights that we all truly need!

P.S. ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ is coming to Apple TV in 2023! Be on the lookout!

Content Warnings: S3xual Ass4ult is mentioned more than once, and once in somewhat graphic detail. If you want to read this book and skip that graphic scene – skip pages - you'll know when it's coming. You’ll still get the overall feel of the book! This is also the reason I took away half a star but am still rounding up overall. I don't think violence against women needs to be in that graphic of detail because, like vi0lent video games, it desensitizes the masses to things that aren't acceptable/deplorable/horrific, etc.

↑↑↑↑ Update 4/10/2023 ↑↑↑↑

So far this book is really amazing at about 40% of the way in. I'm really really loving it -- but then I also felt that way about Tomorrow, Tomorrow & Tomorrow so we shall see.

- Women's Literature
- Historical Fiction
- Picked for the Good Morning America Book Club
- CWs: R4pe, sexual assault, general misogyny...
Profile Image for Liz.
2,138 reviews2,751 followers
May 2, 2023
Five big stars
I love books with quirky, intelligent characters. So, I was immediately drawn to Lessons in Chemistry. Elizabeth Zott is a chemist in the early 1960s, back when women were a rarity in the field. Headstrong and independent, she refuses to tow the line expected. I came more than a decade later, but men’s attitudes hadn’t changed much in the 70s. So, I totally related to her, especially her relationship with Six Thirty.
The book follows her as she becomes a single mother and then the star of a tv cooking show. There is a dry humor to the book. Actually, the humor gets more broad as the story goes on. I started off chuckling. Then snorting. Then laughing out loud to the point my husband insisted on knowing what I was reading.
I sometimes have a problem when dogs are anthropomorphized. But it didn’t bother me here, even when his thoughts were included. I only wish my dog understood 900 words.
The writing here is smart, descriptive, engaging. I found myself chortling over phrase after phrase - the sheer exactness of them. “Every day she found parenthood like taking a test for which she had not studied. The questions were daunting and there wasn’t nearly enough multiple choice.” Not only did I love the immediate family of Elizabeth, Madeline and Six Thirty, I adored Mrs. Sloane, Dr. Mason, Rev. Wakefield, Walter. While the book is humorous, there’s also a lot of emotion packed into it. I adored the ending. (I also loved that Garmus thanked her dogs in her Acknowledgments.) I even loved that I learned a thing or two about cooking.
I can’t recommend this enough. I can’t wait to see what Ms. Garmus comes up with next.
My thanks to Netgalley and Doubleday Books for an advance copy of this book.

Update - I just read this a second time for my book club. If possible, I think I loved it even more the second time.
Profile Image for Regina.
1,136 reviews3,323 followers
April 29, 2022
Anything less than a 5-star review for Bonnie Garmus’s debut novel is a minority opinion, so take my 4-star thoughts with a grain of salt. Or as the book’s heroine Elizabeth Zott would say, a grain of sodium chloride.

Lessons in Chemistry tells the story of a brilliant scientific mind in the 1960s. Only problem is that the mind is in the body of the woman. Not just any woman, but an atypical one who has no interest in marriage or the other traditional trappings of domestic life. Still, one thing leads to another, and she finds herself with a daughter living in the suburbs. Because of the gender roles of that era, her passions and talents for chemistry are going to waste until she ends up with a nightly television show teaching other women how to cook. “Suppers at Six” finally gives home-bound, invisible moms a platform to ask questions, dream big, and prioritize themselves. It also puts items like “acetic acid” on their shopping lists. (That’s vinegar for all you non-sciency types like me.)

I enjoyed my time with Elizabeth Zott and look forward to whatever Bonnie Garmus writes next. My slight hesitation in fully recommending Lessons in Chemistry is that it deals with some very serious themes. One major scene and plot point deals with sexual assault, and I just wish it hadn’t gone allllllll the way there. I think when picking up a book like this I’m looking to escape darker reads that include violence against women. Alas, rape, lather, rinse, repeat. Sigh.

The novel’s manuscript was snatched up in a bidding war for adaptation rights by Apple TV+ pre-publication, so actress Brie Larson is already cast to play Elizabeth Zott. If the series is faithful to the novel, it’ll end up feeling like a #metoo-era feminist woman took a time machine back to the 1960s. I’ll definitely be tuning in when it debuts, but personally I hope it softens the novel’s sharp edges a bit.

Blog: https://www.confettibookshelf.com
Profile Image for Melissa (Semi-hiatus Very Behind).
4,646 reviews2,106 followers
March 21, 2022
Everything I love in a book—smart women, great dog, found family. Excellent read.

I adored chemist Elizabeth Zott. She's trying to exist in the "good old boys" world of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Where the woman's place is in the home, remaining silent, and following along with what the men say. Yet Elizabeth isn't wired that way, and the journey of this book shows her humor, warmth, and intelligence in a way that baffles the status quo.

This novel is uplifting, at times infuriating, and still every time heartwarming and encouraging. We all could use a bit of Elizabeth Zott in our lives (and a smart wonderful dog like Six-Thirty)

Highly recommended.

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, all opinions are my own.
June 21, 2023
“Do not allow your talents to lie dormant ladies. Design your own future. When you go home today, ask yourself what you will change. And then get started”

Four stars for an unapologetic feministic story that gets it right most of the time. Reflective a lot of the time. Funny sometimes. Cringe worthy – yes sometimes that as well.

Elizabeth Zott has a brilliant mind, so she believes but not a view shared by many men, except Calvin Evans. A man who has created his own rule book and because of his prized work is revered. Yet a man who shares Elizabeth’s passion for chemistry, igniting a romance and a discovery of soul mates that was not destined to last, when Calvin’s life was cut short prematurely.

The sad turn of events leads Elizabeth to begin hosting a TV show where her cooking techniques use the unconventional notion and language of chemistry to educate her viewers.

With a book titled ‘lessons’, it is only right to share a few of life’s lessons that Elizabeth is guided by
1. If you fail, don’t admit it. You have just found the million reasons why something wouldn’t work - I must try that!!!!
2. Don’t work the system outsmart it - yes I agree to that
3. Fearless in the kitchen translates to fearless in life - I wish !!!
4. The best strategy is not to fear the danger but respect it - great lesson
5. Take risks don’t be afraid to experiment - depends on the experiment 😁

With the focus on experimentation, chemistry, and the female role. Lessons in Chemistry is a book that encourages us to think beyond cultural simplicity, acknowledge that some of our own achievements are limited by those restrictions we place on ourselves and fight to change the things in your life that matter. You know as the saying goes ‘anything worth having is worth fighting for’.

If you don’t take the book too seriously and literally then you might love, it. If you try to analyse all the messages and connect it to your personal situation, then you might tear it apart.

I for one enjoyed this story. As a debut it was certainly original, as a means of delivering messages it was convincing, as a woman I was less convinced about Elizabeth hence the 4 stars. However, for entertainment it was certainly an excellent choice.
Profile Image for Aleshka.
141 reviews12 followers
June 5, 2022
I have a lot of thoughts. For the sake of my own energy and sanity, I’m just going to bullet point the things I want to say:

•I read several reviews prior to reading that spoke to the harmful white feminism portrayed in this book and I agree with those reviews. Elizabeth Zott is the ideal, amazingly beautiful, shockingly intelligent white woman who is discriminated against due to her gender, and her feminist “rants” reek of privilege. Especially when using slavery as a comparison to being a housewife? No. Not the same.

•Her daughter, Madeline, was so over the top it was ridiculous. She “befriended” a priest and investigated her father’s family tree? At age 4? It’s weird.

•Elizabeth is ANNOYING. Like…SO annoying. Both my parents have PhDs in research chemistry and I can attest to the fact that they call salt SALT and vinegar VINEGAR. And they know how to have social interactions with other humans.🙄 Because they aren’t PRETENTIOUS!! Also, it’s unrealistic that just because she knows one area of chemistry she automatically knows how to cook and knows all the biological reactions that occur in the body. There are a million different avenues of chemistry, and food science is COMPLETELY different than “abiogenesis” which was supposedly her main area of study. So you’re telling me she’s just an expert at literally all chemistry? 🤔 I call BS. Elizabeth Zott is the EPITOME of a “I’m not like other girls” girl. No please.✋🏼 Women can be smart AND socially adept.

•The way the author pits science and religion against one another is exhausting. As if a person couldn’t possibly have a rational, scientific brain and also believe in something supernatural. 😑 She relies HEAVILY on negative stereotypes of the Catholic Church to prove her point that religion is ignorant, and I’m just tired of this argument. It’s boring, small-minded, and irritating to belittle someone or a group of people you personally disagree with REGARDLESS OF WHAT CAMP YOU’RE IN. Can we be adults and agree to disagree without being petty and taking a shot at someone’s intelligence?

•This book is marketed as being funny. It’s not. It’s heavy with sexism, rape, implied pedophilia, and death. It’s not funny at all?

Overall, I’m really disappointed by this book. It’s such a waste, because it was well written and I found myself weirdly entertained. Although, the farther removed from the book I get, the more problematic I find it.
Profile Image for Terrie  Robinson.
443 reviews713 followers
December 8, 2022
"Lessons in Chemistry" by Bonnie Garmus is a delightful debut novel!

Elizabeth Zott, a research chemist at Hastings Research Institute, believes in equality, not a popular opinion in 1952. The all male research team she works with talks down to her rather than appreciating her as the driving force behind their projects. She's weary of males talking over her when she presents her findings and taking credit for her work.

The one exception to this is Calvin Evans, a gifted research scientist at HRI, and a two time Nobel-prize nominee, who has fallen in love with Elizabeth and her brilliant mind. The attraction is real!

Elizabeth views herself as a scientist but knows, by experience, female scientists are virtually non-existent. Ten days before graduating with her master's degree from UCLA, the admissions committee rescinded her application to the doctoral program.

An 'unfortunate event' happened and Elizabeth actions were determined to be the cause. She knows that getting her PhD is no longer possible but she'll never give up her dream. Her only regret is not having more No. 2 pencils to use when the 'unfortunate event' took place!

Ten years later, Elizabeth is a single mother living with her adorable daughter, Madeline, their dog, Six-thirty, and hosting the daily TV cooking show, Supper at Six. The show is an instant hit and Elizabeth is the beautiful, but reluctant, star!

In front of a live audience, Elizabeth uses her platform to not only teach women about the chemistry of cooking, but about life being more important than cooking! It's about following your dream of having a family and a career just like men do!

What a delightful story with a mid 20th Century timeline. If I could spend time with a character, it would absolutely be Elizabeth. I applaud her resilience, resourcefulness, and unwavering belief that women are as worthy as men. If I was in her shoes, I would wear a No. 2 pencil behind my ear or in my hair, too!

A bit of a rebel, smart as a whip, she speaks her mind without holding back, and believes in what's right. She loves her daughter and Six-thirty, the dog, who knows 600+ words and has a significant role in this story. He's quite the canine character and loves Madeline and Elizabeth as much as they love him. It's pretty special!

This is an amazing debut novel with quirky characters, socially relevant topics, emotional swings, winks of humor and laugh-out-loud moments! I loved this story and I highly recommend this book!

Thank you to NetGalley, Doubleday Books, and Bonnie Garmus for a free ARC of this book. It has been an honor to give my honest and voluntary review.
Profile Image for Bianca.
1,079 reviews917 followers
March 22, 2023
May Contain Spoilers

I'd never agreed more with the messages of a novel however, I grumbled throughout this audiobook. It's as if Garmus took every feminist rhetoric, issue and stance and made Elizabeth Zott the denouncer of every.single.one - gender pay gaps, stay-at-home mothers not being appreciated, women in STEM, working women, sexual harassment and the whole gamut of issues. I had to double-check the period this novel was set in. There were quite a few aspects that felt anachronistic. Anachronisms drive me crazy and their presence ruined many historical novels for me. I also think it's lazy and assumes that the readers are ignorant, not to mention, that it doesn't take that long to google.

And then there was the preachiness, and the monologues, and the overexplaining. Oh, and it's all tell no show. Also, I got no sense of the time and place.

I'm a staunch feminist and I agreed and/or recognised most issues, still, I just found this novel annoying, heavy-handed, and way too on the nose.

I like my literature nuanced and I don't want things to be (over)explained, I am (still) capable of chewing my own food/ideas, thank you very much.
Profile Image for Anne Bogel.
Author 6 books59.6k followers
July 1, 2022
This is the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club July 2022 selection and a Summer Reading Guide Minimalist Pick.

A life-affirming tale of a chemist ahead of her time, a life-changing love affair, a dog with a huge vocabulary, and the combustible combination of chemistry, cooking, and afternoon television. Elizabeth Zott only ever wanted to be a scientist—but because she’s a woman in the 1960s, she has to go begging for beakers despite being the smartest researcher in the building. After Elizabeth is ostensibly fired for being unwed and pregnant (but really for being smarter than her boss and dating a rival scientist he loathes), she can’t make ends meet. Out of desperation she accepts a job hosting a tv show called Supper at 6. She loves to cook, because cooking, after all, is chemistry. The producers want her to smile and look pretty, but Elizabeth is much more interested in teaching housewives not just how to make dinner, but how to change their lives. Lively and life-affirming, with an unforgettable protagonist. Content warnings apply.

For fans of Jennifer Ryan’s The Kitchen Front and Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House, with interesting parallels to Like a House on Fire.
Profile Image for Tina Loves To Read.
2,528 reviews1 follower
May 22, 2023
This is a Historical Fiction book. I had so many different feelings about this book. I really did not like Elizabeth's character in this book. I did not like that Elizabeth was so smart, but she was so dumb at the same time. I hate that she did not see people walking all over her. I also did not think she really put a fight for women rights. I just felt she did everything to make things hard on herself. I really wanted to love this book, but I just did not. I hated the first half of this book, and the second half of this book I liked not loved. I also did not understand the dog stuff, and I felt all the dog stuff was weird. I found parts of this book funny. The ending was good, but I saw it coming. I was kindly provided an e-copy of this book by the publisher (Doubleday Books) or author (Bonnie Garmus) via NetGalley, so I can give an honest review about how I feel about this book. I want to send a big Thank you to them for that.
Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
903 reviews1,813 followers
September 24, 2022
Finally got around to write a review for one of the best books that I read this year.

Elizabeth Zott is our protagonist and the story is set in 1960s. It is a men's world. They are dominating almost every field, academics, science, business, innovation, you name it and they're at the top of everything that mattered. Then how could they accept this amazing female chemist beating them at their game? A woman who is strong, speaks her mind, does not do favors to climb the career ladder, and who does not take lightly when told how women should behave or must stay back to take care of family as its her duty as a woman.

This story is funny, full of love, has its moments of sadness but it also stays with the reader after reading it, and that says a lot about this book. Even if its fiction its easy to see how tough it was for women back then to make a place for themselves in a male dominated society.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
431 reviews4,221 followers
August 19, 2023
I cried.....

Words fail to describe just how amazing Lessons in Chemistry is.

"It is never to late to give up our prejudices." - Henry David Thoreau

The book centers on Elizabeth Zott, a determined chemist in the 1950's and 1960's, who experiences intense sexism and detractors.

Although Lessons in Chemistry involves extremely important societal issues, the storytelling is phenomenal. The book is absolutely riveting!

Lessons in Chemistry was the GoodReads 2022 Debut Novel of the Year, and Garmus is one to watch if this novel is her debut.

One important idea discussed in this book is the idea of limits, defining what is possible. This is not just fiction.

In 1954, Roger Bannister ran a mile in less than 4 minutes. Two months later, two more people ran the mile in less than 4 minutes. Now, more than 1,700 people have run the mile in less than 4 minutes.

"No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof." - Henry David Thoreau

What are the limits that we accept as fact?

Elizabeth Zott has a very strong sense of self, and she doesn't allow people to talk her into things.

She isn't afraid to act and live differently, challenging society, politics, and religion.

Lessons in Chemistry is such a powerful book without being preachy, and I greatly look forward to reading this one again.

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Profile Image for Kerrin .
304 reviews227 followers
April 5, 2022
***Now Available***

Bonnie Garmus has done a wonderful job in presenting an unorthodox protagonist with her debut novel, Lessons in Chemistry. Meet Elizabeth Zott, a 1960s woman who loves being a chemist during a time when women were expected to be housewives.

After being forced out of college early, she takes an underpaying job at Hastings Research Laboratories. There she meets and falls in love with the brilliant and famous chemist, Calvin Evans. When Calvin is out of the picture, Elizabeth gets fired after learning she is pregnant out of wedlock. Eventually, she goes back to Hastings, only to be mistreated once again. Through a chance meeting, Elizabeth is hired to star in a live afternoon cooking show called Supper At Six. The station manager wants Elizabeth to dress sexy and cater to dumb housewives. Instead, Elizabeth teaches women the chemistry involved in cooking and encourages them to achieve greater things. She is a breath of fresh air in the stale male-dominated world.

I couldn’t help but laugh and cry with Elizabeth as she struggled to be the best mother and chemist she could possibly be. I’m pretty sure that this eccentric character will be one of my favorites in 2022.

4.5-stars rounded up to 5. Book club recommended. Thanks to #NetGalley and Doubleday Books for my advanced reader copy. The expected publication date is April 5, 2022.

Thanks to my Goodreads friends who expressed congratulations over the birth of my grandson, who was six weeks premature. I had to wait to write this review until I could get to a computer.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,137 reviews4,173 followers
May 6, 2023
Feminist comedy chick lit?

I’d heard conflicting opinions and had determined this wasn’t for me. But several friends assured me I’d enjoy it, and it’s currently 53% at 5* and less than 1% at 1* on GR.

The first page was good! It conjured women’s limited choices of 1961 in a wry way that I liked:
Before anyone knew there’d even be a sixties movement… when the big wars were over and the secret wars had just begun and people were starting to think fresh and believe everything was possible.

The plot had promise, too. Elizabeth Zott is a chemist in academia, but is forced out before her doctorate because of the misogyny of the times. When she finds success as a reluctant star of daytime TV, she subverts the genre by making her cooking show about chemistry, not domesticity.


The first half (pre-TV) was OK-ish. The second half was ever more ludicrous, and not really funny or feminist, as it descended to sentimental and largely predictable mush.

The whole book is packed with clichés, caricatures, and coincidences, but they’re most egregious in the final chapters.

Patriarchy, pencils in the hair (see cover art of some editions), sexual assault, rowing (boats, not arguments), a kindergarten family-tree project, and the corrupting power of money all feature prominently.

Image: A mixed pair of rowers: students Jodie Cameron and Ryan Glymond at the 2021 British Championships (Source)

On screen

Ironically, I think this might work better as a sit-com than a book. It has elements of Stepford Wives and Desperate Housewives, with a dash of Edward Scissorhands.

A few weeks later, I discovered it's being made into a TV series, starring Brie Larson. See imdb here.

Brilliant Bunk - plus quirk

Five year old Madeline has almost finished reading Dickens and is now reading The Sound and the Fury. I can believe a gifted child could read the words, but I don’t believe any child that young would want to: it’s too far removed from anything they’d understand and care about.

The dog, Six-Thirty, is even more advanced (hence, I’ve shelved this as magical-realism). I know dogs are clever and empathetic, but paragraphs of his profound and knowledgeable philosophising on often abstract concepts were just silly. He even had opinions on Proust!

There's lots of self-conscious quirk, some of which fits the period more plausibly than others, and much of it is based on stereotypes played for laughs, rather than realism. Like Elizabeth, my 20-something is a scientist at heart, with a passion for cooking. They've extended their skills beyond anything I've taught them by structured research and experimentation around the chemical reactions involved. But even they wouldn't call salt “sodium chloride” (except perhaps as a one-off joke), let alone vinegar by... whatever the chemical name was Elizabeth used on her TV show.

Chemical bonds

Attraction, bonding, change - all aspects of chemistry, loudly signposted in this book.

Elizabeth is an odd mix of socially inept and effortlessly sexy. She and Calvin Evans both have tragic backstories that leave them conveniently free of family ties, but with an air of mystery that may or may not be revealed: the means are largely unscientific. Also, despite their joint obsessions with science and rowing, they don't really consider the physics of the sport, which is out of character.

Image: Abiogeneis - which is what Elizabeth Zott really wants to investigate (Source)
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