Every so often you come across a book that delights you, one you don’t want to put down and yet you see with sadness that the number of pages still ahead to enjoy is dwindling rapidly. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus is just such a book. It was quirky, funny, moving and a real joy to read. Published this year and already a bestseller, the novel is set in 1950s and 60s California. Its heroine, Elizabeth Zott, is a scientist and is brilliant at chemistry, but she lives in a world where women in scientific institutions were there to make the coffee, not conduct experiments. The sexism and racism remind you of why the feminist movement was so badly needed. The main characters are extremely unusual and the book is in many ways a revenge comedy. It is witty, polished and very clever. Fired from her research job, Elizabeth takes on a TV cooking show, explaining everything to her viewers in terms of chemistry rather than ingredients and recipe instructions. Through the show she empowers other women – women who are beaten by their husbands, squashed into the role of housewife with no chance of careers, secretaries who are abysmally treated by their bosses – and the book brings great satisfaction when you read of the gradual change she provokes.
There’s also a fabulous dog in the story – one of the best dogs I’ve ever encountered in a novel. His name is Six-Thirty.
Bonnie Garmus had a career as a copywriter and Lessons in Chemistry is her first book. I certainly hope it will not be her last. From the attractive cover to the very last page, this book was such a gorgeous read!