Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Historical Fiction
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

By Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus is published with DoubleDay (Transworld). A novel that immediately captured the attention of so many readers across the globe, Lessons in Chemistry is described as ‘laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters…original and vibrant as its protagonist’Lessons in Chemistry is a No. 1 Sunday Times bestseller, a BBC Between the Covers Book Club pick and Winner of the Goodreads Choice Best Debut Novel Award (and more).

Lessons in Chemistry takes us into the world of Elizabeth Zott, a woman of extreme fortitude and conviction, who strongly believes in gender equality across all aspects of society. Elizabeth is a chemist, an unusual role for a female in the late 1950s/early1960s, but not an unusual role for the highly unconventional and quirky Elizabeth Zott. Working in a predominantly male environment, Elizabeth’s knowledge and ability receives no respect from her peers. She has to constantly push herself forward, refusing to lean into their beliefs and expectations.

At the Hastings Research Centre, where she works, Elizabeth unexpectedly has a meeting of minds and hearts with the Nobel Prize-nominated loner, and renowned academic, Calvin Evans. A chemical reaction saw their love and passion develop into something quite extraordinary. Colleagues were embarrassed and dismissive of their very public displays of affection but for Elizabeth and Calvin, this was chemistry, something they just could not ignore.

As time passed, circumstances changed for Elizabeth. After becoming a single mother her life altered completely. She managed her days as best she could, even building a chemistry lab in her own kitchen. Her daughter was reared in a very unorthodox manner that in many ways alienated her from her peers but Elizabeth worked with logic and the belief that there was a right way to do everything.

Pedantic and forthright to the last, Elizabeth’s personality is picked up by a studio boss who has an idea for a new afternoon TV show. He sees potential in Elizabeth and persuades her, against all her beliefs, to become the star of a new cookery show, Supper at Six. Elizabeth was expected to succumb to the typical version of the 1960s housewife but she went against the grain bringing her own unique style to the show.

Using chemistry and common sense, Elizabeth’s methods caught the attention of housewives across the States, and a revolution was born. On her daily show she threw out all conventions and encouraged women to educate themselves. She asked them to understand, to learn and to not just accept the status quo, the male-dominated environment that surrounded them.

While Lessons in Chemistry is a fun read, with the wonderful non-conformist Elizabeth Zott at the helm, it is worth noting that there are some very serious themes running through this novel. Some readers may find them disturbing. These themes could have potentially impacted the charm of this tale but Bonnie Garmus delicately handles them without being too dismissive of their gravity.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie GarmusLessons in Chemistry is being adapted for streaming with Apple TV, with a 2023 release date, so we can expect to see Elizabeth Zott very soon on our screens. It will be very interesting to see all of the characters brought to life, especially Elizabeth’s dog Six-Thirty, a rather intriguing four-legged friend.

Charming and entertaining Lessons in Chemistry is the story of a strong independent woman who refuses to be invisible. Quirky and smart Lessons in Chemistry is a highly amusing and charismatic tale, one not to be over analysed but just one to quite simply enjoy!

(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Order your copy online here.

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