1 September 2022 Susannah

Lessons in Chemistry

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

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!

Have you already read this book? Can you suggest other wonderful dogs in books? Tell me your thoughts in a comment.

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Featured image- Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. Bookcover from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58556597-lessons-in-chemistry, photo from https://www.reddit.com/r/WomenInNews/comments/txo51c/author_bonnie_garmus_on_her_fiercely_feminist/

Comments (26)

  1. Heather Grant

    It has been placed on our Book Club’s to be read list, this year. Can’t wait…..

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I SO enjoyed it, but some readers haven’t loved it, so it will be interesting to see what your book club members think of it.

  2. Jenny Gray

    Thanks for your recommendation Susannah. I’ve just finished reading, and like you, did want it to end! I loved the “character” of Six-Thirty the dog.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I am so glad you also enjoyed it, Jenny. I thought Six-Thirty was one of the best dogs I’d ever encountered in literature.

  3. Janne McDonald

    I loved this book, friends kept putting it aside because of the title. Best read this year!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I was also a bit put off by the title as I have no interest in chemistry, but am so glad I read it.

  4. Sue Green

    The most fantastic new read for the year. Loved it, and have passed it on to friends, who have also delighted in every page. Also not a dog person, but Six-Thirty was the most wonderful animal, what a dog! So cleverly written.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      A friend of mine has just reserved it from her library and she told me there were 100 people on the reserve list ahead of her. Word is obviously spreading about what a delightful book it is.

  5. Wendy

    Thanks for the recommendation, have just reserved it at my library where the three copies are on loan with another reservation, so word must be spreading!
    As a light read, I suggest “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend” by Katarina Bivald. A young Scandinavian girl travels to mid-west America to meet a book penpal in a small town that is slowly dying as industry moved away and young people followed. It is predictable in that she starts to grow close to the people she meets and they all learn from each other. The charming plot device is that she is an avid reader and she makes personal recommendations to the townspeople, many of whom are not readers, that do change their lives. Lots of lovely book discussion inside this lovely story.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I also read and enjoyed The Readers of Broken Wheel, but I enjoyed Lessons in Chemistry far, far more.

  6. Ann

    I am trying to read slowly ..I haven’t quite finished but it is definitely a joy and delight. Highly recommend.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      You are obviously savouring it all! I am keen to read it again very soon.

  7. Maria

    Thanks for the review Susannah. This book has been on my radar for a while and I’ve decided to add it to my Christmas wish list. I have a young friend who’s studying chemistry and it would be a great idea to pass on when I’m asked what I’d like for Christmas!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Don’t wait for Christmas – get it soon and give yourself the pleasure!

  8. Malvina Yock

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but it did trigger some memories of awful misogyny in the work place. I loved Elizabeth and her dog (and I’m not really a dog person). A terrific read.

  9. Patty Bruniges

    Susannah I’m so glad you enjoyed ‘Lessons in Chemistry’. I was given it earlier this year and had never heard of the title or the author but loved it from first page to last. It sweeps you along and is so much fun that the odd little glitch is not a problem. Bonnie’s prose is needle sharp her wit is undercut with very clever observations about the sexist culture of the 1960s. Highly recommended!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I have yet to hear of anyone who has read it and hasn’t loved it. It’s a feel-good book, isn’t it, and also a reminder of how much feminism has achieved for us since the 1950s.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Perfect for your female empowerment project, and a wonderful reminder of how much feminism has achieved for us since the 1950s. it was funny, moving, quirky and a total delight!

  10. Harriet

    I agree that Lessons in Chemistry is brilliant, my favourite book this year. The Art of Racing in the Rain is an extraordinary read about a dog and One of my all time favourites

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Wasn’t it a fabulous book. I have not read The Art of Racing in the Rain so will look out for it. Thanks.

  11. Ruth Wilson

    I’m not a dog person myself, sadly, and I think that may be because of so many fierce and growling canines of fiction. The worst of them is undoubtedly to be found in Oliver Twist , the savage bull terrier owned by Bill Sykes. And there are many other hounds as well.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      The Hound of the Baskervilles would not be nice to encounter on a dark night, but I agree that Bill Sykes’ dog is a real horror!

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