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Lessons in Chemistry

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Member Reviews

Unequivocally one of my favorite reads of the year! It's shrewd, it's stirring, it's humorous, and it's bursting with acute examinations about gender inequality and misogyny in the workplace.

Lessons in Chemistry has become an instant favorite of mine, and Elizabeth Zott, the no-nonsense chemist who isn't afraid to challenge the status quo women are facing in the early 1960's and smack up against glass ceiling after glass ceiling because she knows she's as capable as any man, has become a most beloved, inspiring character.

I loved her seriousness as well as her tireless perseverance. The hyperrational aspect of her personality made for many uproarious moments throughout the story. In fact, her cut-and-dry, black-and-white way of viewing the world, which often resulted in social cues and norms flying straight over her head, felt reminiscent of Don Tillman from The Rosie Project to me. She's so matter-of-fact in her responses or rationale sometimes that you can't help but laugh out loud.

Elizabeth embodies the notion that "chemistry is change" perfectly, too. She is a woman who is years, decades - perhaps even an entire generation - ahead of her time, and what you come to admire about her is that she never gives into the sociocultural prejudices or pressures that surround her. She refuses to be curtailed. To be diminished. She will not be forced to "fit into" the gender constructs of her day.

Her journey in and of itself is full of strife, disappointment, and hardship, though. I won't lie about that. She faces setback after setback. For instance, her dreams of becoming a research scientist are dashed when her mentor sexually assaults her and then denies her admittance into the PhD program. Later, she's demoted from a chemist to a lab tech at the Hastings Research Institute only to be fired without just cause. (There is cause for her dismissal, mind you, but it's petty and sexist in nature.) Her research is also courted and considered by her male colleagues. That is, until they steal it, the gits going so far as to try and pass it off as their own.

Worse than all that, after meeting the one person who truly values her intelligence and skill, who sees her as an equal, Elizabeth loses him to a tragic accident. The love of her life--gone in an instant! On top of that, she finds herself pregnant, unwed, and without a job...at least until she becomes the host of an afternoon cooking show called Supper at Six where she not only teaches women to cook using chemistry but encourages them to believe they are capable in all aspects of their lives. Not just as wives and mothers.

To be honest, if she could have managed it, I think Elizabeth would've concocted a chemical formula that equaled THE FUTURE IS FEMALE and stirred it into one of her recipes. So many of us would've eaten it up back then as much as we would now!

Another thing I loved about this book was that it had a bevy of spirited offbeat side characters. Whether it was Walter, the flummoxed television show manager, Mad, the precocious genius daughter, Harriet, the motherly-neighbor-turned-friend, or Six-Thirty, the uber-intelligent dog with an extensive vocabulary, there was no shortage of people to invest in or narrative perspectives to trot among. For instance, I think you'll be pleasantly shocked and surprised to learn how much Six-Thirty has to say about the world. His voice bounds off the page like a yippy puppy bark, I'm telling you!

The found family aspect was a touching addition as well. It was nice to be reminded that family comes in all shapes, sizes, incarnations, and that it doesn't always have to mean blood.

Even though there are heavier themes running through this novel, including things like sexual assault, sexism, suicide, and loss, overall it's a heartening and inspirational tale. Way, way above average.

Like Elizabeth Zott herself, this book surpasses brilliance to become its own unique thing that demands to not only be lauded but treasured by anyone who reads it.

10/10 would recommend
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What a great book!  I really identified with this story.  As a 1970 college graduate just starting my career in the accounting field, one of the questions I was asked at my interview with a CPA firm was "do you intend to have any more babies?".  I must have given them the answer they wanted because I got the job for $350/month.  A year later a male counterpart was hired for $850/month.  And I was asked to train him!  So I completely identified with Elizabeth and her viewpoint on how women should have been treated in business.  I didn't handle it as bravely as she did though.  This book brought back many memories of the early days in my career (which did end up very successful by the way).  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it.
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This book is set in the late 50's and early 60's where the women stayed home, kept house and had cocktails ready when her husband got home. Women did not seek a higher education but if they did it was only until the obtained their MRS. Children were not born out of wedlock and men and women did not live together unless married. Nobody told Elizabeth Zott that women were the underdog and that she should not strive to become a chemist. This book is humorous, its main characters are likable, if not downright lovable and will speak to you long after you finish this book. In some ways this book reminded me of the Rosie Project but it may just be that I thought it was that good. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in the form of a Kindle book. I will be following this author in the future.
I returned to my review to mention the dog. You will absolutely fall in love with the dog--
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I have been on a string of amazing reads lately and this one joined the ranks of my recent 5 star reads.  The premise of this story is so original, the characters perfectly quirky and the writing full of sass and wit!

The setting is the 1960's, and as we all know from the show Mad Men, there were 2 opposite standards for men and women.  Women were only accepted as secretaries, nurses and teachers.  (And wives and mothers and homemakers of course!).  We meet main character Elizabeth Zott in the middle of her quest to become an accomplished scientist.  What is funny about that?  Um... the fact that women aren't smart enough to be scientists so why waste important employment decisions or research grant money on a woman?   Ugh - this kind of thinking is prevalent in this time period and in this book  - and is SO important to Elizabeth's story and path in life. 

Zott is a no-nonsense personality and has her sights set only on career accomplishments.  Raised in a dysfunctional and non-traditional family, she has promised herself she will never marry and in turn, never lose her sense of self or her name.  While working at Hastings Research Institute, she meets Calvin Evans - a young, brilliant and much respected research scientist.  In Evans, she finds her match.  They share a mutual respect for each other's work, a love of science and discovery and attraction.  Zott finds an ally in Evans, who wants to open all sorts of doors for her, but she is determined to do it on her own merits.  One of my very favorite characters is the stray dog they find together and name Six-Thirty.  He becomes such a pivotal part of the narrative.  

Zott finds herself a single mother and is given the opportunity to host a cooking show.  Though 180 degrees outside of the realm of where she sees her career heading, she accepts.  The pay is way higher than her paltry Hastings salary and her current position is far from scintillating.  Her vision for the show and the producer's are miles apart.  In her, he sees the makings of success, so he slowly tries to change her to fit the mold he wants her to fit in, yet ultimately, he is the one who is changed.  Zott brings her chemistry knowledge to cooking and to the delight of her audience, her expectations of their abilities far outweigh anything they've previously experienced.  

For just a taste of the wit shown throughout the writing in this book:

"The real situation was this:  Walter had an empty programming slot to fill and the advertisers were breathing down his neck to get it filled immediately.  A children's clown show had previously filled the now-empty slot, but in the first place, it hadn't been very good, and in the second place, its clown star had been killed in a bar fight, making the show completely dead in the truest sense."

I fear I am rambling.  There is so just much I want to tell you about this book, but I don't want to spoil a minute of this book for you.  This intelligent and endearing story will have you laughing, crying, frustrated, enraged, buoyant, cheering, hopeful and touched.  The side characters are wonderfully written.  You will hate half of them with a passion and love the other half with even more passion.  I haven't read anything like this book before.  A fully original and amazingly witty book that will stay with me for quite a long time.

Put this on your TBR right now!  Recommend 100%.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for the advance copy to read and review.  Pub date: 4.05.22
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This book was engaging from the first page! Original, fun, and a great way to promote women helping women and  how far women have come and still need to go to be treated equally.
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Having the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth Zott  in this novel was magical. This is certainly one of the best novels of 2021. Elizabeth Zott is a singular woman, a genius, a serious chemist…but as a woman in the 1950’s, none of it matters. She overcomes societal norms and attempts to transcend her role a second class mind, because she is not a man. 
Elizabeth met her “soulmate” the genius, Calvin Evans, she is finally respected. Oh, not so easy. Watching her deal with life’s myriad problems is a lesson in both the culture of the 50’s and the power and strength of human determination and genius. 
Mixed into this novel is a cast of delightful characters. Madeline, her daughter is extraordinary. Even her dog appears to possess a stroke of brilliance. Her neighbor Harriet dispenses  mother wisdom. On the other side, there are bullies and predators. 

Despite all of the handicaps, this is one of the loveliest, most charming novels that I have read in years.  I wanted to keep reading about Elizabeth, despite the fact that the author brings a solid closure to this extraordinary novel. 

I highly recommend this to reading groups. I know this will be one of the most lauded books of the season. Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to read this novel and meet the remarkable Elizabeth Zott.
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I loved Elizabeth Zott so much; she is up there as an all-time favorite protagonist. This book, while dealing with some heavy themes, was an utter delight for me. 

Elizabeth is a scientist, a chemist to be exact. It’s the 1950s and excelling in her field is a losing battle. Despite helping every man at the office troubleshoot his experiments, Elizabeth is underpaid, unacknowledged, and undervalued. And while she has moments of doubt, Elizabeth carries herself with a confidence that I’d love to possess. At her lab, she connects with a renowned scientist, Calvin Evans, and the two fall deeply in love. While unconventional by the standards of their era, I adored their romance. 

Later, through a largely unfortunate series of events, Elizabeth becomes a TV show host—using her remarkable chemistry skills to teach cooking lessons to the wives of America. Despite the TV station’s best efforts, they can’t tamp Elizabeth’s feminist personality. They want her in a tight dress with a cocktail; Elizabeth wears trousers and refers to salt strictly as sodium chloride. Elizabeth wins over the audience with encouragement to follow dreams abandoned the moment they married, to carve out alone time from their children, and to make sure their families see their value. It is heart-warming and motivating. 

As I mentioned, there are also heavy moments. Rape happens, and it’s recognized within the book as an all-too-common occurrence with the power to derail dreams. Death of loved ones is a thread for Elizabeth and Calvin, including Elizabeth’s homosexual brother who hanged himself in shame. Despite the pain, the highs far outweighed the lows for me. The writing is smart, acerbic, and I laughed out loud more than once. I don’t usually care much for animal personas (sorry, sister), but the dog Six-Thirty is as lovable as everyone else in this novel. What a debut! I can’t wait to see what Bonnie Garmus writes next. 


5 stars. Highly recommended. Thank you to the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Some favorite quotes and passages:
<I> “…she keeps repeating how by Saturday night, she’ll finally be Mrs. Peter Dickman. As if changing her name is the finish line for a race she’s been in since she was six.” “She’s marrying Dickman?” he said. “From Cellular Biology?” He didn’t like Dickman. “Exactly,” she said. “I’ve never understood why when women marry, they’re expected to trade in their old names like used cars, losing their last and sometimes even their first—Mrs. John Adams! Mrs. Abe Lincoln!—as if their previous identities had just been twenty-odd-year placeholders before they became actual people. Mrs. Peter Dickman. It’s a life sentence.”

“People often underestimate what a pregnant woman is capable of, but people always underestimate what a grieving pregnant woman is capable of.”

“It’s just that we tend to treat pregnancy as the most common condition in the world—as ordinary as stubbing a toe—when the truth is, it’s like getting hit by a truck.“

“Mrs. Sloane,” Elizabeth said, realizing she did not want to be alone. “You seem to know a lot about babies.” “
As much as anyone can ever know,” she agreed. “They’re selfish little sadists. The question is, why anyone has more than one.”

“ 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.”

“I don’t have hopes,” Mad explained, studying the address. “I have faith.” 
He looked at her in surprise. “Well, that’s a funny word to hear coming from you.”
 “How come?” 
“Because,” he said, “well, you know. Religion is based on faith.” 
“But you realize,” she said carefully, as if not to embarrass him further, “that faith isn’t based on religion. Right?”

“Sometimes I think,” she said slowly, “that if a man were to spend a day being a woman in America, he wouldn’t make it past noon.”
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When I first read a summary of this book, my interest was immediately piqued. A female chemist who ends up hosting a cooking show on TV in the 1960’s - such an unusual plot/storyline!  I was hooked from the very first page! Hard to believe this is the author’s debut novel - it was so well written! 
The main character, Elizabeth Zott, is a brilliant female chemist working in a male dominated field in an era where women’s contributions in the workforce were not valued or given recognition. Fast forward a few years, she finds herself a single mom who is now unemployed and offered a job as the host of a cooking show. And in true fashion, Elizabeth approaches it in an unusual, no nonsense way, imparting her knowledge as a chemist to her audience who love it!  
The author’s writing style is superb - a blend of  dry humor and wittiness while being sentimental as well. The characters are well developed and an integral part of the story - especially the dog!  This is definitely one of my top five favorite books that I read this year!
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a free electronic advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.
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A great debut written about women in the workforce in the early sixties. Sexism and morals are on full display here as Elizabeth Zott, an unmarried mother and chemist, must fight for her rightful place in society. The author’s writing style gives us many humorous episodes as even the dog’s thoughts are revealed. Accurately portraying the sixties with many laughable moments made this a very enjoyable read! #LessonsInChemistry #BonnieGamus 
#NetGalley
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Elizabeth Zott is a captivating literary character readers need to know. In Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, Elizabeth is a no-nonsense chemist, mother, and cooking show star in spite of the men who try to hold her back in this captivating novel set in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Women of all ages need to read this novel to be reminded “design their own future”. Elizabeth Zott also deserves a fan club with tee-shirts and bumper stickers. Lessons in Chemistry is a grand novel.
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I loved this book. Elizabeth is a scientist in the early 1960’s. A time when women were plagued by inequality. She is insulted and abused by teachers, coworkers but does not allow that to stop her. The one man who understands and appreciates is a fellow chemist. Like true chemistry, they bond, living together in love. Then a tragic accident takes Calvin away leaving Elisabeth unmarried, pregnant and grieving. She does not let this stop her either and becomes a television celebrity hosting a cooking/chemistry show. As she often says, “Cooking is chemistry.” 
The plot is interesting peppered with odd coincidences and challenges. The writing is wonderful somehow portraying the struggles without being angry, in fact, it is light and humorous. The characters story and personality pull you in immediately.  It also features a brilliant dog who occasionally “speaks.” I am sucker for thinking animals in books. I will recommend this book to my book club and anyone who enjoys a look at history and love. 
Thank you Netgalley and Doubleday Books.
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Unusual characters!  This includes the dog.  Great plot!  

  Basically: “Women cannot be scientists.   They are better as secretaries.”   Elizabeth Zott copes with the mindset of those around her.   This is in the mid-1950’s-1960’s.  

    To say more would do an injustice to you.   Better you read and discover the events yourself.  I hope this is made into a film or tv series.  

     Ten stars!   Thanks a million to Netgalley and Doubleday Books.
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Holy cow, I cannot say enough about this book. I stayed up too late finishing this. In my top 5 of 2021 for sure. 

It's 1961 and woman chemist Elizabeth Zott is just trying to host a cooking show and take care of her daughter, Mad Zott. Going through the story of her life, and the issues women did face and still do in life. 

This story will make you happy, sad, angry, hopeful and whole gambit of emotions.
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Lessons in Chemistry:  A Novel
Bonnie Garmus

It’s the very early 1960s & Elizabeth Zott is brilliant chemist who constantly finds herself battling sexism and the glass ceiling.  She finds her soul mate in Calvin Evans who decides there is room for both rowing (his passion) and Elizabeth in his life.  He dies in a tragic comedic accident leaving Elizabeth both pregnant, unmarried & unemployed.   Elizabeth gives birth to a daughter, Mad and after a few permutations finds herself hosting a cooking show.   She uses the shows as a vehicle to combine cooking and empower women.  Of course, she’s a hit (think Julia Child with degree in Chemistry), decides she doesn’t want to be a public figure and through the help of an eccentric heiress ends up running the chemistry lab that fired her.  

Lessons in Chemistry reminded me of Where’d You Go Bernadette. The book has the obligatory cast of characters one finds in a Rom-Com.  There is a strong, quirky woman who triumphs over the patriarchy, precocious child, protective dog with superpowers, helpful neighbors, grumpy neighbors and a “fairy Godmother” in the form of the eccentric heiress.   During my reading I kept thinking “this is going to be a movie” – and I’ve since read Apple TV has an option on the book.   The book was a fun read though I honestly felt the author wrote the book with the eventual goal of selling it to television.  It’s a perfect book for whiling away the time in an airport or waiting room or anytime you’re in the mood for a fun, frothy novel. 


Thank you to NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review
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I absolutely loved this book. Don't let the word "chemist' or 'chemistry' scare you. I worked in a pharmaceutical company where we always heard someone utter the phrase "Better Living Through Chemistry". If you truly think about this, it's true. The entire planet is about chemistry. But I digress.

You will be enraged, engaged, laugh, curse, feel like you want to kill most of the secondary characters, because we've all faced discrimination, back-biting co-workers, colleagues that speak over us and take credit for the ideas or the work. Sexual assault, no access to meaningful work or abortion. We're STILL living this in the 2020's, more than seventy years from when the novel is set. 

BUT - there's also romance, friendship, acceptance, and love. And a great animal companion who is not only a guard dog, roll-around and play on the floor, dog, but also smart. He knows the actual meaning of 968 (or so) words, has favorite novels, but can also participate in chemical experiments (wearing goggles).
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Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus will take you through a lot of feelings.  Pride, dismay, sadness, laughter and hopefully some self-reflection.   I loved this book, which I don't get to say often enough for as much as I read.   
Set in decades past, the story unravels the live of an aspiring chemist.  Not shockingly, she faces degradation and abuse  from the men in her life.  She still perseveres, pushing all the dismay, rejection and horror she has felt to keep moving forward.   Then, by a happy accident, she ends up meeting the one man who believes in her and her work.
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I really enjoyed LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY, which is delightful and charming but also gripping. The characters are well-rendered and multi-layered and the story is both funny and sad, a combination which works wonders to bring the reader into the story world.

My only criticism is that the narrative could have been edited/shortened a bit to make it flow better. For example, I found some of the rowing scenes to become slightly tiresome.

However, overall, I was really immersed in the narrative and found myself eager to return as I went about my day. I will look forward to reading other novels by this author. 

I heartily recommend this book for fans of Fredrik Backman and Maria Semple
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4.5 stars!!!! This book was wonderful - I’m always a fan of books with women in STEM. I’m an even bigger fan of books written to be like the MCs rambling mind (bc that’s also how mine works). A beautiful take on chemistry and life. 

It was so uniquely written with multiple povs… we even get a dogs POV (which I loved) 

The writing a little but remind me of seven husbands.. anyways I would recommend this book to any woman it will make you feel POWERFUL
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5 stars to this beautifully written novel.A book women will devour will pass from friend to friend.Elizabeth Zott a chemist a strong independent woman whose life is not easy.This is a story that will have you laugh out loud ,feel an emotional connection and cheer her on.Each character is unique comes alive.A book I will be recommending  perfect for book club discussions a book that will stay with me.#netgalley #doubledaybooks
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This was the most entertaining book I have read in a long time! I loved the humor, the science, the love story. This book has it all, and I hope Bonnie Garmus keeps writing more books!
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