Lessons in Chemistry

by Bonnie Garmus

Modern and Contemporary Fiction Book Club Recommendations Debut Books of the Month Debuts Star Books Family Drama Humorous fiction Literary Fiction

LoveReading Expert Review of Lessons in Chemistry

Fizzing with feminist humour and romance, this radiant, life-affirming novel sees a brilliant chemist and single mother switch to presenting a hit TV cooking show that challenges 1960s social norms.

“Once a research chemist, Elizabeth Zott was a woman with flawless skin and an unmistakable demeanour of someone who was not average and never would be”. So we are introduced to gloriously unconventional Elizabeth near the opening of Bonnie Garmus’ Lessons in Chemistry, an enchanting, uproariously witty novel that I cannot recommend highly enough — think a funny, feminist Mad Men set in the world of science, in a “patriarchal society founded on the idea that women were less. Less capable. Less intelligent”. 

With her doctoral career cut short after daring to defend herself against the groping hands of a tutor, in 1951 Elizabeth is working as a chemistry researcher, surrounded by men who overlook her work and treat her with sexist disdain. One of her colleagues is Calvin, an introverted, socially awkward Nobel-prize nominated scientist with a penchant for holding grudges, which is one of the things Elizabeth first admires in him, for “Elizabeth Zott held grudges too”, especially against a society that all but forbade women to do anything of importance.

Elizabeth and Calvin strike up a sparring working relationship, start dating, and move in together — unmarried (the horror!). She suggests paying her share of the rent by cooking dinner, declaring that “Cooking is a serious science. In fact, it’s chemistry”. Meanwhile, while the unique chemistry between the couple is a delight to devour.

Some years later, Elizabeth finds herself single again, and a single mother to boot. And it’s through her daughter (specifically, the delicious, nutritious lunches she cooks for her) that she’s offered a slot on a TV cookery show. True to form, Elizabeth refuses to play ball with the producer, declaring that “There’s nothing average about the average housewife”, and using the show to deliver cracking advice: “Courage is the root of change…Do not allow your talents to lie dormant, ladies. Design your own future”.

Guaranteed to have you roaring with laughter, weeping in empathy, and fist-pumping the sheer joy of Elizabeth’s indomitable spirit, Lessons in Chemistry is a revitalising, stirring triumph.

Joanne Owen

Lessons in Chemistry 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.

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.

Win the Women's Prize for Fiction 2022 Shortlist!

Win the Women's Prize for Fiction 2022 Shortlist!

Closing date: 30/05/2022

The Women’s Prize for Fiction – the greatest celebration of women’s creativity – today announces its 2022 Shortlist. And what a thing of beauty it is. Win a copy of the Shortlist with LoveReading. The Bread The Devil Knead by Lisa Allen-Agostini The Sentence by Louise Erdrich Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead This draw is open only for UK residents currently in the UK and is free to enter, multiple entries from the same email address will only be counted once. The draw closes on 29th May 2022. Please ensure that the details you use to enter the competition will be correct at the time the competition ends. The winners will be notified as soon as possible.

Enter Now

What To Read After Lessons in Chemistry

The Echo Chamber
Good Eggs
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
Watermelon

Bonnie Garmus Press Reviews

Lessons in Chemistry is a vibrant and original story of hope and staying true to yourself. Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and brimming with life and generosity and courage - RACHEL JOYCE

A book that sparks joy with every page. LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY is both funny and rousing: it had me laughing one minute and air-punching the next. Bonnie Garmus has created an unforgettable heroine - ELIZABETH DAY

A timeless book. 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 - PANDORA SYKES

It's the world versus Elizabeth Zott, an extraordinary woman determined to live on her own terms, and I had no trouble choosing a side. Lessons in Chemistry is a page-turning and highly satisfying tale: zippy, zesty, and Zotty - MAGGIE SHIPSTEAD, author of GREAT CIRCLE

A transporting read, recommended for fans of Where'd You Go, Bernadette and The Marvelous Mrs Maisel - STYLIST MAGAZINE, BOOKS TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2022

On par with Beth Harmon of The Queen's Gambit, Elizabeth Zott swept me away with her intellect, honesty, and unapologetic selfhood. Lessons in Chemistry is a story for all the smart girls who refuse to dumb themselves down despite a culture that demands otherwise. Though a creation of the 50s & 60s, Zott is a feminist icon for our time - RACHEL YODER, author of NIGHTBITCH

Fast, funny and furious - DAILY EXPRESS

This incredible novel has EVERYTHING - an unforgettable heroine, wry humour, love, family and bucketloads of optimism and female empowerment. It's WONDERFUL - HANNAH BECKERMAN

Read it because... Not only is Elizabeth an unforgettable character, so too are her adorable dog Six Thirty and daughter, Mad. This is a truly unique book with some great life lessons, which is why it had to be on our best books 2022 list - WOMAN AND HOME

A fabulous novel. Compelling, satisfying, a real page-turner - NINA STIBBE

Original, fresh, tender, funny and warm. The story dances and swirls, captivating the reader from the first page. Elizabeth Zott is the most wonderful character. Just fantastic - SINEAD MORIARTY

Lessons in Chemistry is a breath of fresh air - a witty, propulsive, and refreshingly hopeful novel populated with singular characters. This book is an utter delight - wry, warm and compulsively readable - CLAIRE LOMBARDO, author of THE MOST FUN WE EVER HAD

A truly involving and uplifting book! Bonnie Garmus addresses serious topics with humour that is genuinely funny. I especially liked the dog. Mine only appears to know one word, which is 'supper', but there again she is a Labrador. I'm sure this is going to be a great success, and deserves to be. - ANNE YOUNGSON, Costa Book Award-shortlisted author of MEET ME AT THE MUSEUM

A truly unique book with some great life lessons - WOMAN AND HOME, BEST BOOKS OF 2022

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9780857528124
Publication date: 05/04/2022
Format: Hardback

View All Editions

Share this book