Lessons in Chemistry

Bonnie Garmus

Historical Feminism Fiction

Nominee for Best Historical Fiction (2022)Winner for Best Debut Novel (2022)

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.

-Excerpt taken from Goodreads.

Check Goodreads to see the book’s ratings.

My Opinion

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) I picked up this audio purely because it is Barnes & Noble’s book of the year. Yep, you read that right, their top book for 2022. Do I agree? Psh, no. I’m still somewhat baffled. It not only won book of the year but many other nominations and awards. But don’t let my opinion turn you away, it had a lot going for it.

There were two very strong facets in this book; the POV from the dog and the misogyny. The dog’s point of view was my favorite! He was insightful and smart but also did what he could to help. The fact that Elisabeth had him pick up her child from school says volumes! Next is the misogyny. It was heavy. Very heavy at times. This book is based in America during the 1950’s and it rang true from what I know of the time. Experiencing it “with” Elisabeth made it all the more impactful. Her grit was admirable. She ran by her own set of rules. She knew what was right and stuck to her guns but she did not have an easy time at it.

My biggest problem with Elizabeth was that she was socially awkward. I though I’d connect with her on all levels with this but no, she ran with the awkwardness further than I ever have. The humor got lost and it just became…. awkward. Oddly, I still admire her as a character. She had more determination than I have in my little finger. She called out injustice and then set about to change it. Amazing! She was making waves and impressing upon others to be who they want to be.

In conclusion, I was not impressed by this one. I loved the message, I loved Elizabeth’s strong will and general non-acceptance of anything negative. I loved that. But I never grew to love the characters, never felt any emotions one way or the other toward them. The story was slow and dragged multiple times. And while the misogyny was interesting, it did not impact me enough to change my rating.

The fact that this is Barnes and Noble’s “book of the year” makes me disappointed to say the least. I believe many will love this book, but it just wasn’t for me.

AUDIO REVIEW: The audio left me underwhelmed. I’m not sure if it was the writing or the narrators. I wanted to feel the frustration and anger she was feeling but the narrator was so even keel that I never quite felt anything.

General content summary: First off, this book is not for sensitive readers. The misogyny is intense and degrading. Not only are words used but men use their bodies (rape) to get their way and completely dismiss women in general. There were many intense scenes that makes me not be able to recommend this one often. F word= 18, C word= 3, sexual harassment (multiple), physical violence and rape (some details), stabbing with a pencil, disbelief of rape and consequences for the woman but not the man, sexual discrimination/misogyny, references to intimacy, previous parental deaths, previous sibling death by suicide, suicide because of religious belief and homosexuality, orphan is sent to a boys home, abandoned dog, adoption, hit by a car (blood, broken bones, death), grief, pregnancy, references to masturbation, physical aggression between spouses (physical evidence), attempted rape, heart attack (survives), cigarettes,  infidelity and divorce (brief). 

Thank you to Penguin Random House for the complimentary copy!

**As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 

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