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Being allowed to shine

Cover of Lessons in Chemistry
A review of Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

I've had Lessons in Chemistry on a list of "books I will probably read some day" since before it even came out. The initial appeal was the cover.** Then I read the blurb: 60s era woman scientist struggles in the misogynistic world of science and ends up creating a popular cooking show? Color me even more intrigued. So yes, I've wanted to read it. What finally got me to do so? Friends who wanted to watch the new AppleTV adaptation together and required that I get the book read first. Assigned reading with a deadline? Best thing ever (mostly), especially as I loved the book.

Elizabeth Zott is a chemist. That's all she's aspired to be and she's incredibly brilliant at the work. But she's also a single woman in mid-20th century academia and research and, to say the least, that's been disastrous. Wherever she has turned she's faced roadblocks and while she has always powered through, recent events have leveled her once again. So when she's asked to host a cooking show on a local television station, she takes the job as money is tight. It's not chemistry research but the chemistry of cooking has always been important to her too. And if she uses the show to slot in some women-empowering messages? All the better. Hosting the show to growing popularity changes the trajectory of her life once again and Elizabeth will need all her wits to once again make her way through. 

This books can veer between being wryly whimsical or heartbreakingly sad (and sometimes be both at the same time). But it's always keenly observant and compassionate to it's protagonist, who is not perfect by any stretch, and the people who come to inhabit her life. Plus there's a wonderful dog. I'm so glad I read it before I dove into the television series.

**Many readers have found the cover on this one deceptive as it leans far more into the whimsical side and doesn't warn readers of the darker things that happen in Elizabeth's life (warning: there are dark things, so be sure to read more synopses for triggers)



Oct 25, 2023