Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Thank you so much to Alison Barrow for gifting me this proof, what an absolute triumph! Definitely a strong contender for book of the year 2022!

Synopsis

‘Your ability to change everything – including yourself – starts here’ – Elizabeth Zott.

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.

But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take 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.

Meet the unconventional, uncompromising Elizabeth Zott.

Review

“What I love about rowing […] is that it’s always done backwards. It’s almost as if the sport itself is trying to teach us to not get ahead of ourselves.”

What an absolute gem and a strong contender for debut novel of the year!

Meet Elizabeth Zott. Scientist, mother, lover, rower, she never settles for anything.

Whilst navigating through Elizabeth’s challenges, Bonnie Garmus very wittily paint a portrait of what it was like to be a woman in the 60s, through the eyes of different generations, from Elizabeth to her daughter Madeline, from her dog Six-Thirty to Dr Mason or Father Wakely. 

Each character is a window to different ways of thinking; to prejudices that Elizabeth is intent on fighting. 

Strong, uncompromising, inspirational, you are bound to fall in love with this force of nature. If I’d been one of her contemporary, I would definitely have wanted to be like her, to share her values. 

Teaching hundreds of words to her dog, encouraging free speech and thinking for her daughter, sky is the limit for Elizabeth Zott. She thrives to use science to fix humanity, she simply cannot accept the established order of civilisation. She can’t accept those archaic, outrageous and misogynistic ways of life, stereotypes and biases that society keeps on perpetuating.

“When a boat succeeds, it’s because the people in the boat have managed to set aside their petty differences and physical discrepancies and row as one. Perfect harmony”.

Whether it’s at work, in her love life with Calvin, or with her few friends, she simply is implacable and uncompromising. It all comes down to chemistry. As a result, men fear and despise her, women envy and resent her, but she simply can’t let anyone dictate how to go about her life. 

“People need to believe in something bigger than themselves”

When you don’t fit in, you either comply and compromise, or you stand your ground. When she gets her own cooking show on TV, revolutionising the « Afternoon Depression Zone », her fierceness and intransigent nature will, in spite of herself, empower thousands of women to believe in themselves, to understand their worth, to take back some control. 

This book is a triumph! So compelling, thought provoking, it will challenge you to question subjects you didn’t even know you had to! Philosophical at times, full of clever and subtle thoughts on tough subjects, it will make your brain and your soul sense so many emotions: anger, rage, happiness, sadness, you laugh, you cry but love so much. It is pure joy!

I can’t stop thinking about it, this book is powerful, gripping, endearing, you have got to get yourself a copy. 

With Love,
AGJ

Out now in hardback, audio and e-format.

About Bonnie Garmus

Bonnie Garmus. Photography: Serena Bolton

Bonnie Garmus is a copywriter and creative director who has worked for a wide range of clients, in the US and abroad, focusing primarily on technology, medicine, and education. She’s an open water swimmer, a rower, and mother to two pretty amazing daughters. Most recently from Seattle, she currently lives in London with her husband and her dog, 99.

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