Cover Image: Lessons in Chemistry

Lessons in Chemistry

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Member Reviews

I am a huge fan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, so when I heard this one described as similar to Maisel, I knew I had to read it immediately. After a bit of a reading rut, I was pleased to find that this one kept me engaged and interested throughout. I found the writing/timeline to be a bit choppy and jolting, but I know that it was probably in an effort to tell years of story within a reasonable amount of pages. Though I found the overall journey to bit hectic, I think the characters Elizabeth, Mad, and Six Thirty kept me invested. All in all, I found I was easily able to get through this book, but I wouldn't consider it a "must read." Would recommend to those who enjoy strong, unapologetic, badass female leads.
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I was so intrigued by this book and couldn't wait to put it down. 

It was unexpectedly hilarious And at the same time I found myself mad at some of the secondary characters and enraged at the discrimination, and issues that women are STILL facing over 50 years after this book takes place. 

But without giving too much away, I will say that even though she faces all the bad behavior you can imagine from the men in her life, she keeps on keeping on. Like women do.  

I've been really into romance and fantasy in the last few months so this was a great way to take a break. Loved it. 

Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for an ecopy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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If Fredrick Backman was a female with a PhD in chemistry, this book would be the result with its lovable cast of misfit characters and crackly dialogue.

LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY lives up to the hype. It was a lot of fun to read and has a very satisfying conclusion. I am ALWAYS here for a book about a family of choice. There’s a special place in my heart for both Six Thirty and Wakely, with an honorable mention to Frask.

A few quotes I loved that won’t make a ton of sense out of context but I’m doing it anyway:

“Because while musical prodigies are always celebrated, early readers aren’t. And that’s because early readers are only good at something others will eventually be good at, too. So being first isn’t special—it’s just annoying.”

“The story was simple: a child named Amanda Pine, who enjoyed food in a way some therapists consider significant, was eating Madeline’s lunch.”

“But weathering is called weathering for a reason: it erodes.”

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy- I hope there’s more to come from Garmus!
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Thanks to NetGalley & Doubleday Books for a digital advance reader's copy. All comments and opinions are my own.

This novel, a debut no less, was all over the place for me. Funny, satirical, sad, ironic, entertaining, witty, with elements of fantasy and feminism. And don’t forget the magic realism of the dog. So did I like the novel and how would I rate it? I’m giving it 4 stars – read my review to find out why.

Cleverly written with a quirky and memorable heroine, this is the story of chemist Elizabeth Zott. In the 1950s, when the story begins, it was very nearly impossible to be anything but a housewife/mother, nurse, or secretary. But Elizabeth fights against stereotypes throughout the novel – whether it’s sex, cooking, rowing, motherhood, or chemistry. Elizabeth’s on-the-spectrum personality (literal, headstrong, blunt) propels the plot.

And the plot is brilliant – things happen and people connect (and reconnect) in ways that both surprised me and had me admiring how the author fit everything together. There were several provoking aspects to the story – some of which were the way people misunderstood each other, the sexist attitudes, and how some characters fought against and often overcame the 1950s cultural norms.

What gives the novel depth is that the story is told from different characters’ points of view, including Six-Thirty, the dog. And these characters were compelling. The reader learns what each is thinking, and why, and we can often anticipate the way things will be misunderstood, which makes for laughs as well as sighs.

While the book contains a great deal of wit, as another reviewer mentioned, there are serious issues including a brutal rape which is described in detail, and a suicide due to homophobia. And the sexism is rampant which unfortunately was how it was back in the 1950s, with some areas still troublesome today. I was surprised at the amount of discussion on faith (belief vs. nonbelief). But in the end the bad guys get their comeuppance, with loose ends tied up, providing a satisfying conclusion.
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Iu absolutely adored this book.  I fell in love with the main character and thought she was well-developed.  The storyline was so compelling, I didn't want to put the book down, and I loved the positive strong woman lead.
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This is one of those books that you cannot take too seriously (kind of like a tv sitcom of books). Just about everything was over-the-top and completely unrealistic. From the dog that knew hundreds of words, to Elizabeth's quirkiness, her daughter's precociousness and to the sexist men (and while I know women have come a long way from the 1950's-1960's in the way of equality - the degree of discrimination seems completely unbelievable in this book). 

Despite all this, I was entertained. The story tells the tale of Elizabeth and Calvin back in the 1950's - both scientists. And both a bit different - or actually, as this story is written - very different from societal norms. Of course, the dog may have been the best character. 

A fun read as long as you don't have any expectations of reality.
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I abandoned this title at 65%. I kept waiting to be invested in the story. While I enjoy a feminist protagonist and story Lessons in Chemistry was lacking a trajectory. At times we were reading from the dog’s point of view, which I enjoyed, and then a neighbor in the same chapter.  Elizabeth Zott was an interesting character but the story arc  didn’t keep me interested.
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I received a free electronic ARC of this excellent novel from Netgalley, Bonnie Garmus, and Doubleday, Publishers.  Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.  I have read this novel of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work.  I am pleased to recommend Bonnie Garmus to friends and family.  She writes a strong tale with heart and gumption. 

Our story takes place in the Southern California town of Commons, in the early 1950s.   Elizabeth Zott is a research chemist of some repute, but a woman in what was most decidedly a man's world, her work not recognized fully, and it is rumored around that she is just riding on Calvin's coattails. She and fellow scientist Calvin Evans worked in similar but separate phases at Hastings.  Calvin was that fellow who seemed to have a gilded life, his experiments turn out beautifully, his grants always came through, and his life seems blessed.  Calvin and Elizabeth live together, have for a couple of years now but Elizabeth chooses not to marry, despite the stigma such an arrangement garnered in the mid-twentieth century, as neither of them wanted children, and marriage without issue seemed redundant.  Their family feels complete, just them and the dog that followed her home from the market, whom they named Six-Thirty and loved unconditionally. They even row together, on the river.  

And then Calvin trips on Six-Thirty's leash, rams his head into the curb, and is backed over by a police car.  Before the funeral, Hastings has gathered up and locked away all of Calvin's work, his lab stripped of everything.  And as soon as Elizabeth figures out that she is pregnant, she is fired on a morals charge.  Shortly thereafter, her supervisor publishes a paper with her work, blatantly stolen from her files.  

Bowed but not broken, Elizabeth knocks out the kitchen in their apartment and sets up her own lab, continuing her work on her project, abiogenesis, much in demand, from where sprang the single-celled bacterium which Darwin went on to prophesize did diversify into plants, people, all matter of living things.  But where did that cell come from?  That jump from matter to living matter, an act that took place about 4 billion years ago... 

She made some progress, before the birth of her daughter Mad.  She is able to make enough to maintain her household by charging her previous co-workers as they trickle into her home day after day for interpretation of their testing results or thoughts on what to do next.  And with the birth of Maddie and the addition of her across-the-street neighbor, Harriet Stone, their house began to feel like a home, again.   Harriet was the mother of four children, now all grown and gone, and the perfect friend to reassure Elizabeth and Mad that things were normal, and all babies were unreasonable and at times horrible. Dr. Mason, the rower who delivered Mad, stops in to remind Elizabeth that she is needed in the number 2 seat on his boat.  And then Mad is in school, only 4 but taller than most 5-year-olds,  with a new best friend, Amanda Pine,  and Elizabeth has time on her hands.  Time to sink back into the outside world.  The Lab Assistant job back at Hastings doesn't work for her, her boss DonDonatti has blatantly stolen her work again, publishing it as his own.  But Amanda Pine's father needs a host for an afternoon cooking show, and he thinks Elizabeth has a marketable presence, and the afternoon cooking show will keep her busy and in groceries for a while.  Surprisingly, ladies like the idea of understanding the chemical processes of cooking Supper at Six.
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Elizabeth Zott is first and foremost a chemist, pushing boundaries in the field of abiogenesis at the Hastings Research Institute in California. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, however, is that in the 1950s and 1960s, no one will take her seriously as a female scientist. With her PhD pursuit cut short after her thesis advisor rapes her, Elizabeth takes a job as the lone woman in a research lab where her voice is discounted and discredited despite her obvious intelligence. It is only when she meets Calvin Evans, a Nobel Prize-nominated scientist who has his own lab a few floors above, that she finds someone who will take her seriously. A few years, unfortunate twists, and unplanned pregnancy later, Elizabeth is a single-mother struggling to raise her brilliant daughter Madeline and make ends meet. A chance confrontation with the father of Madeline’s classmate, who happens to be a producer at a local television station, lands Elizabeth a role as the host of a daytime cooking show, Supper at Six. The show quickly becomes a national success, not least because of Elizabeth’s commitment to teaching her viewers the chemical principles behind cooking, which inspires women across the country to push beyond their prescribed limits. Don’t be fooled by the pretty pink cover of Lessons in Chemistry that is sure to superficially place it in the category of “women’s fiction.” Lessons in Chemistry is at its core a story about resilience and moxie, with witty characters and a protagonist who refuses to give up.
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Set in the 1960s, Elizabeth Zott is a smart and capable woman, who has found herself working in a STEM field dominated by men who think she'd be better off as a home-maker.  After being laid off due to budget cuts, to make ends meet Elizabeth accepts a job as a TV host for Supper at Six, a cooking show.  With her unique way of speaking to the audience, she and her show immediately become a huge hit, but there are times she wants to ditch the kitchen and get back into the lab.

What can I say.  I loved this book!  I loved the feminist elements, all of the well-rounded characters, and of course six-thirty!  I did immersive reading, aka I listened to the audiobook and while reading my digital copy.  Miranda Raison knocked it out of the park for her narration, she completely captured Elizabeth Zott and brought her to life.  I can't wait to see what Bonnie Garmus does next and to see Lessons in Chemistry brought to Apple+ TV in the future.

Special thanks to @NetGalley and Doubleday Books for providing me with a copy of this book for review purposes.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Elizabeth Zott is a quirky and very direct chemist who is a bit of an anomaly in the world of 1960’s STEM academia. Facing extreme discrimination amidst men who think she is just another skirt to undermine and put their hands on, she eventually lands as the reluctant star of her own chemistry laden cooking show.

I loved the portrayal of Zott’s distinctively STEM academic personality. As the wife of a professor at a predominantly STEM university I can say, without a doubt, that many of her characteristics and mannerisms are ones that are often encountered in the field. This fresh storyline struck a balance of funny and earnest and daughter Mad was wonderfully written. Zott’s overcoming journey is inspiring as is her commitment to her passion and principles. Fans of books like Where’d You Go Bernadette and others like it will love this one!
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Quirky and memorable characters mixed in with deeper/heavier themes, this was such a fun debut! 

There was so much that I enjoyed and appreciated about this book! I loved Elizabeth Zott, Mad, and Six-Thirty! The people she surrounded herself with were some of my absolute favorite parts of the novel. 

I loved Zott’s candor, the female STEM rep, and how more than anything this was a commentary on women in academia in the 60s and how that’s influenced the field into today. 

This was a slow-burn for me, and it ended up shaping into a book really different book than what I expected. By the end I ended up overall really enjoying it, and think this one would be so fun as a movie or show! 

The tone of the book really reminded me of The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot, so I would definitely recommend for fans of that writing style!

Thank you to @doubledaybooks for this #gifted copy and to @netgalley for sending an E-ARC as well in exchange of an honest review!
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BIG. CHEMIST. ENERGY. 

Elizabeth Zott. What a badass, smart, complex character. This book filled me with rage at the way women have been treated in the past, and the way women are still treated. It also filled me with hope, because we are so strong, we are so capable, and we have so much to offer. It made me want to bust through a glass ceiling or two! 

I absolutely adored Six Thirty. I loved his devotion to his family and the way he looked out for Elizabeth and Madeline. 

I loved the aspect of ‘found family’ and that although Elizabeth was a solitary character, she ended up with a core group of people that she could trust and that became a support group for her. 

This book was a pleasure to read, and I’m looking forward to more books by Bonnie Garmus!
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🄼🄸🄽🄸 🅁🄴🅅🄸🄴🅆 ----⤼⁣⁣⁣
𝚃𝙸𝚃𝙻𝙴: Lessons In Chemistry
𝚁𝙰𝚃𝙸𝙽𝙶: ★★★☆☆

I'm keeping this one brief because I don't have a whole lot to say about this one. It took me a while to get invested, and I don't think that's a good sign in ANY book, no matter how much the ending might redeem the entire story.

I went into this semi-blind and was fully unsure where the heck this was going. There were quite a few scenes/chapters where I was like wtf is going on, and then on the flip side, where I was totally immersed. It didn't make sense. I've never experienced such a roller coaster of interest. 

Was the ending satisfying? Sure? But it was too little, too late. I appreciated the topics it went over about female empowerment and equality, but I might be the only person who can take it or leave it with women in STEM. Maybe because I hated those subjects in school. 

Anyway, please still give this a chance even if you're wary after reading this. It's getting high praise so maybe I'm in the minority.
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I wasn’t sure what to make of this book based on the  cover, but it was a super fast and delightful read.  I can’t wait to see it adapted!!
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Thanks to Doubleday and Net Galley for the review copy.
What an amazing debut! Such a page-turner.  I started and finished in the same day.  I already have Bonnie Garmus on my list as a must read author.  
I love our main character, Elizabeth Zott, a scientist in 1960s California.  I was rooting for her from the start as the author did a great job of having me see the perspective of Elizabeth against the entire world.  She is portrayed as such a wonderful determined woman pushing back against the boundaries set on her by the times she lived in. It’s heartbreaking to read how difficult it was for women in science and ho her career got derailed.  Her romance is so unconventional for the times yet she ends up with the age old issue of an unexpected pregnancy.  The fact that she becomes the unlikely star of a TV cooking is an example of how this book doesn’t take itself too seriously while making serious commentary on gender discrimination.
The other characters were equally great.  The men are not all portrayed as evil and I loved Calvin and Walter.  The dog, Six-Thirty was just an ingenious addition to keep us laughing.  The quirky daughter, Mad, made me smile constantly as she dealt with the hand she was given.  
My only issue with this book was a touch of the preachy theme that seemed to underscore it all.  Women readers in particular do not need the constant reminders of how our gender holds us back in more than just the workplace.  
I loved that I got to review some chemistry and definitely picked up some kitchen tips even if the science behind why I want the butter bubbling will probably be forgotten soon.
Such a satisfying read.  It’s so different from anything I’ve read this year.  I think it will make my top 10!
Thanks for an accessible science book and for the advance copy
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A delightful debut novel, Gamus serves up a tale of of a chemist thwarted by sexist colleagues but determined to continue her work, in whatever form that takes. I enjoyed this immensely, and I can't wait for her next one.
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This is one of those books I am on the fence about. There was so much about this book I loved, but at times I also think the story got away from the author. I know others are raving about this book, and it's easy to see why. But I struggled a bit with the pacing and the path Lessons in Chemistry took. Regardless, I enjoyed the characters Bonnie Garmus created, and will be looking for future books from her!  

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.
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I know this book is all over the place right now and sometimes when a book gets really popular it’s easy to wonder if it deserves all the hype. This book definitely deserves it! What a unique and wonderful book with a lead character you won’t forget anytime soon.

Elizabeth Zott is extremely intelligent, she should be a very successful scientist. But this story takes place in the 1950’s and 1960’s and the world did not make it easy for a woman, especially one like Elizabeth, to succeed.
She faced roadblocks everywhere she turned. It was harder to get an education because she was female. It was harder to get into a good school because most good schools only accepted male students. While she was trying to get her degree, she was assaulted by a horrible man in a position of power and no one took her seriously. When she went on to work in science, no one took her seriously there either. And then Elizabeth met Calvin. Calvin was a brilliant scientist too. He was the first man who actually respected Elizabeth and they found a beautiful life together. But people kept judging Elizabeth for doing things the wrong way.

She kind of stumbles backwards into a cooking show. She’s just supposed to be teaching people to cook and acting like a “normal housewife” whatever exactly that means. But this is Elizabeth and she doesn’t do things just because people expect her to act a certain way. She refuses to let herself be pigeonholed and she wants better than that for her audience too. She is teaching women cooking on the surface but she is also teaching them about chemistry. She is teaching them to question things and showing them it’s ok to want more than whatever society says they should want.

I loved Elizabeth. I loved her dog too! Her dog was an amazing, supportive character as well and he made it safely through the entire story. 

I am going to have a book hangover from this book.

I have a very strong feeling that this will be adapted into a tv or mini series. It’s the kind of story where I would absolutely love to see the story come to life.

I’d highly recommend this book to pretty much anyone I know.

I got to read an early ebook edition from NetGalley. Thank you!
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Every once in awhile you'll read a book with a character so memorable and unique that you can't help but wish they were real. Well, let me just add Ms. Elizabeth Zott to my 'fictional characters I want to be best friends with' list. 

In a male dominated world and career field back in the 50's (and even still rings true today), Elizabeth Zott always had to fight her way to the right of being taken seriously as a chemist. Sadly, it very rarely worked out for her and we get to go on her journey to staying true to who she is no matter the cost. 

While this book was witty and heartfelt, it also dealt with a lot of triggering aspects like sexual assault, sexism, suicide, and death of a loved one to name a few. 

I think I can name Lessons in Chemistry my favorite book of the year so far.
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