Lessons in Chemistry
By Bonnie Garmus
Doubleday, 9780385547345, April 5, 2022, 400pp.
The Short of It:
Pure fun with a little bit of science and feminism.
The Rest of It:
Elizabeth Zott is a chemist. In the 60s. She is brilliant, but pegged as “difficult”. Her discoveries are impressive but not to her peers. Her male peers consider her to be more of a lab tech than a ground-breaking scientist. When she uncovers something big, her male boss takes credit for it. None of this is new to Zott. It began in school and unfortunately affected the job offers she received. This is how she ends up at Hastings, a research institute run by a total tool.
It is at Hastings that she meets Calvin. Calvin, is a well-known scientist and a hot commodity for Hastings. He could have worked anywhere but chose Hastings for its mild climate. You see, he is also a rower so good weather year-round was a plus even though he could have gone anywhere.
Lessons in Chemistry surprised me. From the cover, I had ZERO interest in reading it. It looked like one of those fluffy romance reads. But then I read an article that praised it on many levels. And then my book club selected it for this month’s pick. So, not only did I find a copy, I BOUGHT a copy. Something I rarely do. It surprised me in many ways:
- It’s full of science but masked as cooking tips
- Zott is difficult, but in a very likable way
- There is an adorable dog
- Yes, there is romance but not fluffy, silly stuff
- There are highs and lows. Not all happy stuff
- It does illustrate the difficulties that women faced in that decade
This is one of those feel-good reads. It will be on my fave list at the end of the year because it includes love, loss, overwhelming challenges, and in my opinion, some really great characters. However, with all that good, it was predictable, which is why this is a four star read for me. It’s predictability did not affect my enjoyment while reading it though. I eagerly looked forward to it every time I picked it up.
If you passed this one over due it its cover alone, give it a go.
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15 thoughts on “Review: Lessons in Chemistry”
Your reason for not picking it up is exactly why I would have over the holidays, if I had gotten to it. I was in the mood for fluff. But now I’m not, so now I probably should pick this up.
Your review changed my mind about this book so I’ll add it to my tbr list and try to fit it in soon.
You will love the dog. LOL!
The negative attitudes and unequal treatment of women in science careers in the 1960s and earlier was the focus for me.
It’s gotten a lot better but women are still up against so much.
So many readers loved this book, and I really wish I had read the print edition. I’m almost certain that I would have had a greater appreciation for it if I hadn’t listened to the audio. Part of this has to do with the mispronunciations in the audio, but Six-Thirty’s inner monologue was also awkward to listen to. I’ll bet it’s a great book club selection; there’s so much to discuss!
Good point. I don’t think this book translates well for audio. 6:30’s inner dialogue was so, so sweet in print. I gave it four stars because it was a tad predictable but it was a fun read. Sometimes sad.
Interesting. I absolutely loved this book on audio! We all like and dislike different things, yes? 🙂
My mom got this for Christmas and I’m excited to borrow it from her at some point, I’ve heard really good things! I would say, there are lots of good romance novels out there — don’t discount the genre. I bet there are loads of romance novels that include a lot of the things you loved about this one. I would be deeeeelighted to make you a rec list, if you ever wanted.
I wasn’t going to read this either, though a friend said I should and I did. I was so angry at the way Elizabeth was treated, yet she was so resilient and in the end she managed to come out on top in spite of it all. I am glad I read it.
I agree. What happened to her was very serious and it angered me that it happened to someone else in the same book. I guess this was typical behavior in the 50s-60s. No one should have to endure that.
I agree with your review; I really enjoyed this novel even though it was a bit predictable. I thought it managed to deal with issues in a fun and non-preachy way.
It is very interesting to look for different covers of this book. There are some European ones that are quite good, imo.
I tried to read this twice but just couldn’t get on with it. You have inspired me to try again!