Lessons in Chemistry

A Novel

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Pub Date 05 Apr 2022 | Archive Date 30 Apr 2022

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A delight for readers of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, this blockbuster debut set in 1960s California features the singular voice of Elizabeth Zott, a scientist whose career takes a detour when she becomes the star of a beloved TV cooking show.

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.
A delight for readers of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, this blockbuster debut set in 1960s California features the singular voice of Elizabeth Zott, a scientist whose...

Advance Praise

“It’s the world versus Elizabeth Zott, an extraordinary woman determined to live on her own terms, and I had no trouble choosing a side. Lessons in Chemistry is a page-turning and highly satisfying tale: zippy, zesty, and Zotty.” 

Maggie Shipstead, author of Great Circle

“Lessons in Chemistry is a breath of fresh air—a witty, propulsive, and refreshingly hopeful novel populated with singular characters. This book is an utter delight—wry, warm, and compulsively readable.” 

Claire Lombardo, author of The Most Fun We Ever Had

“I loved it and am devastated to have finished it.” 

Nigella Lawson, author of Cook, Eat, Repeat

“It’s the world versus Elizabeth Zott, an extraordinary woman determined to live on her own terms, and I had no trouble choosing a side. Lessons in Chemistry is a page-turning and highly satisfying...

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Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9780385547345
PRICE $29.00 (USD)

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Average rating from 130 members

Featured Reviews

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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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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With Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus has written a witty, intelligent, and beautiful book that unflinchingly examines the experiences of a female scientist and chemist in the 1960s. I was riveted. Elizabeth Zott is one of the most courageous and unforgettable characters I've come across. No spoilers, but this brilliant, non-conformist, and self-assured woman endures so much and is a trail-blazer. This book had me laughing, heartbroken, angry, proud, etc. The clever plot wove in chemistry in such a way that even though I'm not well versed in it, I felt connected to what Elizabeth's viewers must've felt from watching her show. The writing is crisp, the dialogue sharp, with fascinating characters, a multi-layered plot, and strong statements on society. Even the dog, Six Thirty, is remarkable! Just like its heroine, this book is truly extraordinary. Hands down, one of the best books I've read this year. Thank you to Netgalley and Doubleday Books for the opportunity to read this ARC.

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Awesomely intelligent, witty, and sarcastic (in a most entertaining way), Lessons in Chemistry is a book I'll remember for a long while. Elizabeth Zott is refreshing and slightly frustrating at the same time. You'll wish she'd compromise just once, but also cheer on her independence and determination in the not-so-woman-friendly late 50s and early 60s. Daughter Mad Zott is a precocious delight, neighbor Harriet never fails to tell it like it is, and canine family member, Six-Thirty, wise and protective, is one of the best dogs EVER in fiction. Each character deals (or doesn't) with tragedy and trauma, including Elizabeth's scientific soulmate, Calvin Evans, and latest boss, Walter Pine. Never a dull moment, be prepared to fall thoroughly into this book.

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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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This is an unconventional book about an unconventional woman. It is paradoxically inspiring and disheartening…and I loved every minute of reading it. I truly regretted coming to the end. The story takes place in the southern California town of Commons in the early 1960s. The prevailing view of woman is best characterized by the popular sitcoms of the day – think Donna Reed, Harriet Nelson and the Beaver’s mom, June Cleaver.. (If you are too young to relate to these references, these woman wore make-up, jewelry, shirtwaist dresses and lived to feed their families and keep an impeccable home.) Elizabeth Zott, however, is a woman born ahead of her time. Her dream of becoming a research scientist abruptly ends when her mentor in her master’s program sexually assaults her and denies her entry into the PhD program. Subsequently, her work environment at the Hastings Research Institute isn’t much better; she is demoted from her position as a chemist to a lab tech by a narrow-minded, jealous boss and eventually fired. As her life unfolds she loses the love of her life, becomes the mother of an “illegitimate” child and, of all things, hosts an afternoon television show featuring cooking based on chemistry. The show not only instructs women to cook from a very different perspective, but also inspires the audience to consider bold, new possibilities for their lives. The qualities I admire most about this woman – what makes her a true heroine – is her honesty, her integrity and her perseverance. While her capacity to stand up for her truth in the face of overwhelming social and cultural prejudice toward women in general and in science specifically, her uncompromising posture ensures she will never “fit in” – a rather lonely and frustrating existence. I love books with quirky characters and this book delivers them in abundance. Elizabeth, herself, exemplifies this; she lives predominately through her brilliant, rational mind and is so serious that it becomes the basis for some of the humor woven into the storyline. Her precocious daughter, Mad, is a wonder. Perhaps my favorite is Six-thirty, the dog who flunked out of the military training for bomb detection and emerges as a personality in his own right. This book is a breath of fresh air. When so many authors rely on formulistic plot lines, Ms. Garmus has created an original and highly entertaining novel that finds a delicate balance between the humor and the pain of human existence. My thanks to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for the privilege of reviewing this book. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. This review is being posted immediately to my GoodReads account and will be posted on Amazon upon publication.

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Lessons in Chemistry is absolutely brilliant! Absolutely could not put it down.. I found myself actually laughing out loud so much I just had to read parts of it to my husband. It's clever, witty and tragic. What more could a reader want.? So well written I could see this as a mini series. I haven't fawned over a book in forever! Kudos to Bonnie Garmus on her fabulous novel. I wouldn't change a thing. Special thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for this opportunity to read this e-ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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I completely devoured this book! Lessons in Chemistry is such a unique and original novel that had meat “hello”! This great read centers around a quirky, brilliant, take no bull female character who holds her own in a male denominated profession and I AM HERE FOR IT! I think the most surprising aspect about Lessons in Chemistry is how much I literally laughed out loud—love that! I have texted my family/friends and told them to pre-order this gem and to keep it in mind when picking their spring 2022 book club selections! Lessons in Chemistry is a complete 5 star book that I found so inspirational! Looking forward to reading more from Bonnie Garmus in the future!

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Lessons in Chemistry by debut author Bonnie Garmus will go on my list of “best of the year” reads for its stunningly original plot, extraordinary characters, wry dialogue, and compelling writing style. The centerpiece, Elizabeth Zott, describes herself as someone who has “never fit in.” A brilliant chemist, she is treated poorly at Hastings Research Institute because she is a woman. But she is one of the few who isn’t intimidated by wunderkind Calvin Evans who, in his twenties, has his own lab, has already graced scientific magazine covers, and has been nominated for a Nobel Prize. They meet when she boldly steals beakers from his lab, and Calvin—who has never had much luck with dating—falls hard. Both Elizabeth and Calvin have had challenging childhoods, with dysfunctional families affected by premature deaths and incarceration. They understand and support each other, accompanied by an adopted stray dog they name Six-Thirty. The dog is remarkable, dedicated to protecting Elizabeth and the pair’s uber-precocious daughter, Madeline (Mad), and learning to understand hundreds of words they have taught him. Just one of the book’s “elements of impossibility.” Set in the 1950s and 1960s, the book tackles what Elizabeth calls “a patriarchal society founded in the idea that women were less.” When they wanted more than their traditional role, they were often rebuffed, ridiculed and disrespected. But the book uses droll humor to address sexual inequality and discrimination. When Elizabeth leaves the lab, she suddenly finds herself the host of “Supper at Six,” an afternoon TV show. To the dismay of management, she presents cooking as chemistry, never talking down to her homemaker audience and encouraging them to go for their dreams. Elizabeth, Calvin, Mad, and Six-Thirty are characters you will root for and remember. The plot moves in unexpected directions and will keep you enthralled. I hope Bonnie Garmus is working on her next novel! My thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday for allowing me to read and review this book.

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Elizabeth Zott experiences chauvinists everywhere until she meets her soulmate Calvin Evans, a brilliant chemist. Calvin dies young leaving Elizabeth unmarried, pregnant, and fired from her job. Undeterred, she is offered a job as hostess for an afternoon cooking show. The book is powerful and educational with many laugh out loud moments. A must read for all women, especially those raising children at home.

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I absolutely loved Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus. Not only is this novel engaging, with terrific characters, but the story itself is just wonderful. I have already recommended Lessons in Chemistry to my book club group and to everyone who will stop to listen for 5 minutes. This is a novel with love, grief, subtle humor, and on some occasions, laugh-out-loud hilarity. The dog is perfection, and while the author does not note the breed, I have decided that the dog is a terrier, specifically an Airedale. I could not put this novel down. It was that wonderful, and what an engaging surprise from a first-time novelist. I will be anxiously awaiting a next novel. Thank you to the author, publisher, and to Netgalley for providing this ARC. 5 VERY Large Stars!

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A book about chemistry, not interested. But chemistry in cooking on television? What a delightful romp through the vicissitudes and adventures of one woman's life. Thoroughly enjoyable.

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I loved this funny, smart, sweet story. Initial thought was perfect for hipper fans of Fredrik Backman. The characters were great and will stick with me for a long time. Thanks!

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A good storyline, characters that you totally love, and laugh-out-loud moments- what more could you ask for in a story? A thoroughly delightful debut novel- definitely recommend.

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This was the first book I read in 2022, and-- like most things over the past couple of years-- it was not at all what I expected. In this case, it turned out to be WAY better! Elizabeth Zott is a chemist, cooking show host, rower, survivor, mother, and just an all-around badass independent woman in the 1960s-- a time when ladies were supposed to stay home, cook dinner, and raise babies. With a description that says, "Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize-nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results," I expected the typical guy-meets-girl, guy-loses-girl, happily-ever-after. But whoa. This book was so much deeper. There are a few mysteries, a fairy godmother acorn (you have to read it to understand that one), and a whole lot of shaking up the norms. I LOVED this book and think everyone should read it, too!

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I completely, head-over-heels, loved this book: the voice, the story, the women’s lib element—running right smack into the 60s. Same dry sarcastic she-against-the-word as Where’d You Go Bernadette, but very much it’s own world. And, chemistry! Not to mention all the ways the 60s snuck in, so fun (and fraught). Populated with a number of viewpoints, this helped me bond with multiple characters, though mostly Elizabeth, Madeline, and Six-Thirty. Excellent!! *Think* What would it have been like if Madame Curie had lived in 1960s America, and this book is the delightful answer. Definitely going on my Not-to-Miss-2022 list! Thank you for the arc in exchange for an honest review.

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Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus will forever change the way you look at a sharpened number two pencil. Elizabeth Zott is a wonderful chemist who could easily change the world, if only people would stop mistaking her for a secretary. Set in the midcentury era in the United States, Lessons in Chemistry is a whirlwind of a book that pulls the reader in from the first sentence and doesn’t let go. Garmus expertly weaves wit and humor into this tale so often full of tragedy, leading the reader through a rollercoaster of emotions. Elizabeth Zott is most known for her role on the popular television show Supper at Six, but she’s not just a TV chef. In fact, she’s not a chef at all. She’s a chemist, explaining the building blocks of chemistry to under-appreciated housewives while teaching them how to make nutritious and fulfilling meals for their families and maybe also teaching them that they, and their dreams, are worthy and valuable. But she didn’t start her career on a television set. She has a Master’s in Chemistry, and began her work at Hastings Research Institute, where she battled sexism, plagiarism, and an overtly toxic atmosphere daily just so she could continue her work in abiogenesis. Don’t let the word chemistry in the title or words like abiogenesis discourage you from picking up this book; it is not your high school chemistry class that made you cry in frustration (that wasn’t just me, right?). Here, the chemistry aids the plot in the best way: it adds depth without making the reader’s eyes blur with incomprehensible words and topics. The presence of chemistry in this book is inherent to the character; it’s how she thinks, how she processes the world, and how she finds the determination to persevere despite the great odds stacked against her. This book is full of unforgettable characters, from the protagonist to secondary characters to individuals you only meet for a scene or two. Main character Elizabeth Zott is fixed in her ways, resolute, resilient, no-nonsense, and yet immensely likable for it. And the dog! The dog named Six-Thirty, whom Elizabeth decides to teach words to see how many he can learn. I don’t want to spoil any plot points by discussing other beloved characters, but just know this book is chock-full of lovable, unforgettable characters. It is the characters just as much as the plot that make this book un-put-down-able, and one that will be highly re-read-able as well. This is one of those books where the voice perfectly matches the protagonist. This makes reading an immersive experience, as the reader feels like they’re experiencing Elizabeth’s world firsthand despite the third-person narrator. Even scenes without Elizabeth are told in this voice, leading the reader to interpret this new information as Elizabeth would. This novel swept me off of my feet and transported me back in time to 1960s California. I learned about things I wouldn’t have purposefully sought out, like chemistry and rowing, and thoroughly enjoyed doing so. I also experienced, via Elizabeth, the power of female friendship, the rarity of finding someone who views you as an equal, and the importance of standing up for what is right and facing the social consequences head-on. Like your high school chemistry book, this book might make you cry. But with this novel, the crying will be due to catharsis, deep emotional connections and totally worth it. Unlike the authors of your high school chemistry book, Garmus is sure to make you laugh along the way. Not only that, but you’ll see the world differently and be thoughtfully considering Lessons in Chemistry long after you’ve closed the cover. Lessons in Chemistry will be available April 5, 2022. Thank you to the author, Doubleday, and NetGalley for the advanced e-copy so that I could share my honest review.

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