Cover Image: Lessons in Chemistry

Lessons in Chemistry

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Member Reviews

Honestly, I am really torn on what to rate this book. I suppose for the positive things I liked about it, I would rate it 4 stars. And the negative things about it, I would rate it 3 stars. 

Elizabeth Zott is a chemist in the 1950s determined to be taken seriously as a scientist, even though she is up against discrimination and harassment from her male coworkers. When Elizabeth falls in love with fellow chemist Calvin, she believes all will be right in the world. Until Calvin dies, leaving Elizabeth, their dog Six-Thirty and their unborn child behind. Fired for being a pregnant unwed mother, Elizabeth takes consulting jobs on the side while continuing her research in her at home laboratory. Years later after a run in with one of the father's of a student at her daughter Mad's school, Elizabeth is offered a chance to host her own day time cooking show. Needing the money, Elizabeth agrees, and begins to not only teach women in America how to cook, but teaches them chemistry through the culinary method. 

 There were a lot of things about this book that I really did enjoy. The premise drew me in. I thought it was very interesting that a cooking show would be presented in a more scientific manner, than what we see on tv today. Author Bonnie Garmus is a very good writer. This book was structured well, and flowed easily. It was engaging, thought provoking and at time humorous and emotional. Garmus's characters were exceptionally three demsional, well rounded and utilized in the story well. I especially liked Elizabeth's next door neighbor, Harriet. She was smart, funny, full of insightful knowledge but also was also harboring deep resentment for her life and her husband. She was fascinating, and truly I'd read a spin off about her any day. 

Even given this book's positive, for me unfortunately the things I didn't like about it overshadowed the things I did (I always like to lead with the positive, thus me doing my review that way.) Based on the premise of a woman working in STEM in the 50s, I knew that sexism, discrimination and harassment were going to be big themes in this book. What I wasn't expecting was how overbearing it all was going to be. Garmus is so blatant with all her feelings on equality that it's jarring within the time period and felt like 2022 mentality infused into the 1950s. Yes, I agreed with everything this story was trying to say, but truly it made me feel like a bad feminist because I just wanted it all to stop. It was so in your face, hitting you on your head that by the end of the story I wasn't even rooting for our main character anymore. 

Speaking of our main character: Elizabeth Zott has got to be one of the most insufferable character's I have read. I am all for flawed women/characters. But I am not a fan of characters who think they are above the "rules", rude, obnoxious and oblivious to how they are acting. I don't like when the author justifies their behavior by saying she is quirky, and socially awkward. Yes, Elizbeth was met with discrimination, harassment and sexism and her beliefs that women should be treated equally to men are correct. But it doesn't excuse her behavior, and the fact that she learned nothing from any of the situations she was in was quite disappointing. 

Lastly, another issue I had with this book was that there were two very unnecessary rape scenes. I feel that rape and assault have no place in any piece of literature, but these two scenes especially felt extremely out of place and took me by surprise. I understand Garmus was trying to show how men during this time period believed they could dominate woman in all sense of the word, but here it felt like a bit much. It gave me a false sense of security with any other male character going forward. Every time Elizabeth was alone with a man in a professional capacity and she was standing up to him, I was afraid he was then going to rape her. As a reader, that is a stress that you just don't need to have while reading a book. 

Overall, I think Garmus is a great writer and I will read whatever she writes next. Would I recommend this book to other readers? Even though I had issues with it, I would still say yes. 

Thank you Net Galley and Doubleday Books for giving me an advanced copy.
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Part historical part love story with a clever strong female lead plus some narration by a dog?! This character driven novel with some family drama was such a delight but dove into serious issue of women's equality in the 1960s. The story was moving with sweet and funny moments brought by a cast of narrators that were artfully interwoven.
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This book is my favorite of the year so far, for so many reasons.  The quirky characters, the unusual story line, and most of all, the reality of the struggles faced by women in the 1950’s and 1960’s, threatening to reappear today.  Elizabeth Zott is a unique, brilliant woman, pursuing science in a field that does not accept her.  When she meets Calvin, another brilliant scientist with no social life, the two experience chemistry that could only be described as explosive.  There is so much to this story, but I don’t want to give anything away.  Suffice it to say there are many twists and secrets that are revealed in a most entertaining way.  Highly recommend!  Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.
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So I've struggled a bit in writing this review. This is a book that has been getting tons of hype, so I think my expectations may have been a little too high going in... I definitely have some unpopular opinions. The description claims that this book is "laugh out loud funny", and it is at parts... But, that is overshadowed by some really upsetting parts. I think the description should have included some trigger warnings... Overall, this just wasn't my cup of tea.. ⭐⭐
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Audiobook Review

I am going to go ahead and say this might be one of my favorite audiobooks this year…… I know big words but I LOVED IT! I wasn’t sure how I would feel, I’ve been strictly reading romances but I decided to give it a try because it was everywhere on bookstagram and in my opinion I get it. For me it’s totally worth everyone taking about. 

Now I listened to the audiobook and I think the narrator just did such an amazing job and really brought the story to life. I don’t know if I would feel the same having read it myself. 

Here were some things that I loved:
▫️ Elizabeth’s quirky personality. 
▫️Her relationship with her daughter. 
▫️Six Thirty was the star of the book for me. His narrations were heart- melting! 
▫️I loved the tv show host setting and women in a STEM careers. 
▫️Women empowerment. 

Also if you have read this then you know that I will never look at a number 2 pencil the same again…. 🫣😳

These characters will be stuck with me for a long time.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for the advanced copy for review. All opinions are my own.

Lessons in Chemistry is a historical fiction, women's lit novel about how in the 60's women weren't appreciated for their brains at all. Elizabeth Zott is a very intelligent chemist who has to continually prove herself to her male peers and still gets accused of riding coattails.

This one was okay for me. It's very feminism heavy which isn't a bad thing, but the main character just felt a little stiff to me. Almost as if she had zero personality other than being smart.
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Big 5 stars for this very original new book by Bonnie Garmus. I hope to see more books by this author!. Elizabeth Zott hopes to be a research scientist, but that is not in the cards for her. Not with the many male chauvanists she has to deal with in her scientific community. Instead she ends up as a single mother, who hosts an afternoon cooking show. She is definitely a heroine I wanted to get to know. Laugh out loud funny in places, but still based in how hard it was for a woman to make her place in the man's world. Loved her dog, Six Thirty-such comic relief in this intelligent dog!
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Thank you for this ARC!  I just loved this book.  One of the best I have read this year.  Elizabeth is a compelling character, someone you can look up to.  Her love story with Calvin is beautiful.  This is a witty book full of delightful characters.  I love all the chemistry and life lessons that are mixed into the story.  I hope to see this developed as a TV show.
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Elizabeth Zot has her work cut out for herself. A woman in the 1960’s, she understands facts, Chemistry, and that the fact that as a woman she will not be allowed into the scientific men’s club no matter how hard she tries. So, when she begins working at the Hastings Research Institute she is treated as a less than glorified secretary and gopher instead of the astute chemist she really is.

Calvin Evans is a brilliant prize-winning chemist who made the mistake of accidently assuming Elizabeth Zot was “just a secretary”. She immediately proves him wrong. As a result, they fall in love and become the fodder for all their gossipy co-workers who look at Elizabeth as just a gold digger who has a chance to marry well.

But Elizabeth and Calvin know better. They not only become partners in Chemistry, but in life as well. They are practical, organized and live a routine with their dog Six-Thirty who Elizabeth begins to teach words, which he seems to understand. They live in a happy test-tube bubble!

Until suddenly Elizabeth finds herself alone with a daughter no less, and her dog. After being fired from the Hastings Institute for being pregnant, Elizabeth realizes she must provide for her growing family. And through a series of what anyone else would call good luck, but to Elizabeth is embarrassing unluck, she finds herself the star of a… please don’t call it a cooking show, but…a cooking show called Supper at Six. So, Elizabeth does what she always does, and makes the cooking show about Chemistry, much to her producer’s chagrin.

But Elizabeth’s way of teaching how to cook is revolutionary to women, and needless to say misunderstood by men. When asked by a man why on earth she would want to wear pants rather than a skirt she responds with well why do you? As the show becomes more popular, she begins challenging the women who watch to become more independent and question their status quo, explaining they are able to do whatever they want in life. Needless to say, this does not go over well with some men and even some women!

But as we follow Elizabeth Zot’s unapologetic journey in life and the way she looks at everything so differently, especially for that time period, we are given a clear vision of where women were and where women should be and could be. An example her daughter exudes even in her young life.

Lessons in Chemistry is a wonderful, funny, heartwarming journey back to the past with wonderfully crafted characters, a beautifully told love story and many lessons to be learned about life.

Thank you #NetGalley #Doubleday #BonnieGarmus #LessonsinChemistry for the advanced copy.
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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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