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Lessons in Chemistry 1

A Novel

by Bonnie Garmus
Publication Date: 07/03/2023
5/5 Rating 1 Review

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RRP  $22.99

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The sensational Number One debut of 2022, now in paperback. The major bestseller featuring the uncompromising, unconventional Elizabeth Zott - the most exciting new character in fiction.

As read on BBC Radio 4


Winner of the Goodreads Choice Best Debut Novel Award

Hay Festival Book of the Year

A Book of the Year in: Guardian, Times, Sunday Times, Good Housekeeping, Woman and Home, Stylist, TLS, Oprah Daily, Newsweek, Mail on Sunday, New York Times Notable, and many others

Your ability to change everything - including yourself - starts here

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. Forced to resign, she reluctantly signs on as the host of a cooking show, Supper at Six. But her revolutionary approach to cooking, fuelled by scientific and rational commentary, grabs the attention of a nation.

Soon, a legion of overlooked housewives find themselves daring to change the status quo. One molecule at a time.

Publication Date:
Transworld Publishers Limited
Country of origin:
United Kingdom
Dimensions (mm):

'Sparky, rip-roaring, funny, with big-hearted fully formed, loveable characters'

'The most charming, life-enhancing novel I've read in ages. Strongly recommend'

'Laugh-out-loud funny and brimming with life, generosity and courage'

'A novel that sparks joy with every page'

'I loved Lessons in Chemistry and am devastated to have finished it!'

'Elizabeth Zott is an iconic heroine - a feminist who refuses to be quashed, a mother who believes that her child is a person to behold, rather than to mould, and who will leave you, and the lens through which you see the world, quite changed'

'It's the world versus Elizabeth Zott, and I had no trouble choosing a side. A page-turning and highly satisfying tale: zippy, zesty, and Zotty'

Bonnie Garmus

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

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Based on 1 review

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1 Review

“… here she was, a single mother, the lead scientist on what had to be the most unscientific experiment of all time: the raising of another human being. Every day she found parenthood like taking a test for which she had not studied. The questions were daunting and there wasn’t nearly enough multiple choice.”

Lessons in Chemistry is the first novel by American copywriter, creative director, and author, Bonnie Garmus. Elizabeth Zott is a chemist. While she’d much prefer to be working on her research in a lab, she’s presenting a cooking show on TV. It’s 1962, she has a daughter to support, and TV pays better. It’s not at all where she thought she’d be, ten years earlier…

In 1952, Elizabeth has already been thrown out of the doctoral program at UCLA when she rejects the advances of her thesis advisor with a freshly-sharpened number-two pencil, and ends up at the Hastings Research Institute under the supervision of the equally misogynistic and insecure Dr Donatti.

The star scientist at Hastings is Nobel-Prize-nominated Calvin Evans, who boasts a well-equipped lab all to himself. Elizabeth needs beakers, helps herself to his, and gets rapped over the knuckles for disturbing the poster boy. But Calvin is quickly entranced by this beautiful woman who clearly has a brain, and uses it. Each pretends it’s a relationship based on mutual scientific interests until they succumb to the immediate irresistible pull of physical attraction. They have chemistry.

But. Elzabeth Zott is a chemist, and she wants to do, and be recognised for, her own research, not ride on the coattails of her talented boyfriend. “Elizabeth’s grudges were mainly reserved for the patriarchal society founded on the idea that women were less. Less capable. Less intelligent. Less inventive. A society that believed men went to work and did important things – discovered planets, developed products, created laws – and women stayed home and raised children… she also knew that plenty of women did want children and a career. And what was wrong with that? Nothing. It was exactly what men got.” All that she encounters is obstacles.

Four years on, Elizabeth is a single mother starring in the most unconventional cooking show that American TV has ever seen and, despite lots of (male) objections, she has a devout following. What makes many of the men in charge uncomfortable are her freely-shared frank opinions and her encouragement of women wanting to follow their dreams.

Garmus tells her story through multiple narrators, one of whom is Elizabeth’s clever dog, Six-Thirty, and she often gives them wise words and insightful observations. While her description of sexual harassment may be confronting for some readers, Garmus also manages to include a few scenes that will bring a lump to the throat, and a generous amount of humour, some of it quite black, much of it laugh-out-loud.

Her depiction of the late fifties and early sixties will definitely resonate with readers of a certain vintage, who may have experienced similar: “With the exception of [a select few], she only ever seemed to bring out the worst in men. They either wanted to control her, touch her, dominate her, silence her, correct her, or tell her what to do. She didn’t understand why they couldn’t just treat her as a fellow human being, as a colleague, a friend, an equal, or even a stranger on the street, someone to whom one is automatically respectful until you find out they’ve buried a bunch of bodies in the backyard.” Funny, moving and thought-provoking, this is a brilliant debut.

Contains Spoilers No
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