Published: April 5th 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction, Humorous Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook
Happy Publication Day to the phenomenal Lessons in Chemistry. Today Elizabeth Zott is out in the world and I can’t wait for you to meet her. This is one of my favourite books this year and know it will be on my list of top books of 2022. This isn’t to be missed!
Thank you to Doubleday for the gifted ARC and finished copy in exchange for an honest 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.
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.
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.
“Children. set the table. Your mother needs a moment to herself.”
Well, I have been Zotted. Witty, smart, vibrant and refreshing, I am in love with this heartwarming debut and its quirky heroine.
Set in America during the 50s and 60s, Lessons in Chemistry tells the story of Elizabeth Zott, a woman like no one you’ve ever met. She is an unusual woman for the times: a female research chemist, an unmarried woman living with her partner and then a single mother. When we first meet her in 1961 Zott is a TV star, the famous host of Supper at Six, a show with unique concept where she not only combines cooking and chemistry, but uses her platform as a rallying cry to the housewives watching to reach their full potential and be appreciated for all they do. The story then jumps back to 1952 and we follow Zott’s journey from no-nonsense scientist to inspirational feminist TV star in this powerful novel.
“Elizabeth Zott was a woman with flawless skin and an unmistakable demeanor of someone who was not average and never would be.”
There are some fabulous new literary heroines being written at the moment and I am here for it. Zott stands out in this crowd as a feminist icon with timeless appeal; as relevant today as she is in the era she is created to inhabit. Zott doesn’t see why women shouldn’t be equal to men, why she needs a husband or understand why others think it’s strange to have a laboratory instead of a kitchen. She doesn’t underestimate women and talks to them like intelligent and capable beings, something that wasn’t the norm at the time. She does things her own way and I adored this unconventional, determined, practical, straight-talking woman who is unapologetically herself.
Zott’s passion for chemistry is all consuming. Like it’s part of her DNA. Though I’m clueless when it comes to science I still found her relatable, pulled in by her singular charm that makes her irresistible and unforgettable. And while I’m not into science personally, I did love reading a female STEM character, especially one set in the 50s and 60s. It is still a male dominated field where women are fighting for equality and Zott is an ideal icon to help challenge the sexism and misogyny of both the field and everyday life that women face to this day. The book is set just before the sexual revolution of the sixties so Zott’s world is filled with the expectation that women are stupid, lesser thanand there to be used sexually by men in power. I cheered as she challenged these expectations and rose beyond the expectations and limitations others held for her, refusing to acknowledge them herself.
“The reduction of women to something less than men, and the elevation of men to something more than women, is not biological: it’s cultural. And it starts with two words: pink and blue.”
But Zott isn’t the only great character in the book. The author has filled the book with a cast of vivid and eccentric characters that are compelling and memorable, some likeable and others more nefarious. This includes Zott’s precocious daughter, Madeline, who might be even more intelligent and straight-talking than her mother, and their dog, Six Thirty, the most delightful dog ever written, who provides much of the comic relief and emotion of the story and stole my heart from his first appearance on the page. I dare any of you not to love him.
Lessons in Chemistry is a book for women who are authentically themselves, who challenge expectations and refuse to play dumb even when society tells them they should. Zappy, zingy and zestful, this magnificent debut was a joy to read from beginning to end and I was sad to turn the final page. The extraordinary Elizabeth Zott and her story will leave you with a warm glow in your heart and a smile on your face that lingers and I am hoping there will be more adventures from Zott, Mad and Six-Thirty, *crosses fingers*.
Read this book ASAP and be prepared to be Zotted.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Bonnie Garmus is a copywriter and creative director who has worked widely in the fields of technology, medicine, and education. She’s an open-water swimmer, a rower, and 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.
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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Emma xxx