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Review of Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

About the book

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Doubleday (12 April 2022); Doubleday

Language ‏ : ‎ English

Paperback ‏ : ‎ 400 pages

Order your copy : Here

This post is sponsored by Penguin India in exchange for an unbiased review. 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.

My thoughts on it

We all have read a book, that’s hyped up and everyone gushing about it and somehow you don’t see or understand why you can’t just like it. My relationship with Lessons in chemistry is somewhat lukewarm. There are parts that I absolutely loved. The bond between dog and humans and seeing the world from the furry boy’s point of view. It played with my imagination.

While by the 50s it was common for single ladies to work, married were still expected to stay and home and look after children. This nonsensical belief, sadly still persists in India. The notion that women are passive, submissive, and aren’t fit for “analytical jobs” ignored the fact that while men were fighting in Europe and Africa during world wars it was their job to make bombs and tanks.

Anyways, back to my book, Elizabeth Zott, a chemist surrounded by a bunch of misogynists, whose sole aim is to cut her wings and belittle her. With time she had to (read forced to) become a TV cook. In Zott’s world, the only man who is just so perfect is her love of life, Calvin. The very idea that two perfect souls are in love with each other in the most perfect way turned a fiction book into a more *high on sky* fiction book.

A person’s views are shaped by the time they live in, and their circumstances, but in this case, Zott’s way of thinking doesn’t match up with the era. It's way too futuristic and thus very unrealistic. The way she is portrayed sounds grumpy, and irritated, and all life’s problems happen only to her! In a way, it's depressing to see how a potentially fierce feminine book ended up mocking her. The idea that Zott isn’t average, highly intelligent, and so is her daughter, a pre-schooler, reduced the potential to relate with the characters to zero (if not a minus!).

Another problematic part is the belief that religion is an ugly, dark subject and hence doesn’t go well with modern-scientifically well-learned Zott or Calvin. Of course, I would give them the benefit of the doubt because of their past experience with fanatics. What it did was, focus only on good and evil, turning the book into a superficial read.

That being said I still like this book as a one-time read, funny rom-com, once-in-a-while, weekend pick-me-up.

About the author

Bonnie Garmus is a copywriter and creative director who’s worked widely in the fields of technology, medicine, and education. She’s an open-water swimmer, a rower, and a mother to two pretty amazing daughters. Born in California and most recently from Seattle, she currently lives in London with her husband and her dog, 99.

This post is a part of #blogchatterA2Z2023 and Blogchatter.

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