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Lessons in Chemistry Review: Back-of-Book Description
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK • A must-read debut! Meet Elizabeth Zott: a “formidable, unapologetic and inspiring” (PARADE) scientist in 1960s California whose career takes a detour when she becomes the unlikely star of a beloved TV cooking show in this novel that is “irresistible, satisfying and full of fuel. It reminds you that change takes time and always requires heat” (The New York Times Book Review).
“A unique heroine … you’ll find yourself wishing she wasn’t fictional.” —Seattle Times
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 as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes 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.
But 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.
Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.
Lessons in Chemistry Review: My Thoughts
My friend and I saw rave reviews for this book all over Facebook! So we both decided to get it and read it together way back in August.
I dove into it and finished it within a couple of weeks (before my friend did), but I agreed with her that the beginning was kind of slow. You definitely need to give it time to build and play out.
The writing was unique. Well, compared to most books I read. It’s written in the third person omniscient point of view. So the reader knows what all characters are thinking at all times. I find this kind of confusing and off-putting. I have no idea why. Other people probably don’t feel that way.
That said, I eventually got used to it and started appreciating the narration’s humor and wit.
Some characters stood out more than others. The main character, Elizabeth, was interesting and pretty likable. I enjoyed reading about her relationship with Calvin, as well as their relationship with their dog, Six Thirty. Also… that’s a very unique and cute name for a dog.
As the book progresses, so do the relationships Elizabeth has. It was cool to see the changes in her as well as how she interacts with these other characters. There were a lot of life changes (romantic relationship, motherhood, new job) that allowed her to grow and change and interact with new people.
There were definitely some frustrating bits. Life in the 60s for women was hard – especially for ambitious women who did not want to follow the “rules”. There were moments that felt incredibly unfair. This is also a good time to mention that there is a sexual assault depicted early on in the book. It was uncomfortable to read, but it was definitely an important part of the story.
The dialogue between characters was great. Elizabeth’s communication style is very direct and it was fun to read.
The settings were described well and between labs and the set of the TV show, it was fun to picture all the spaces.
Overall the story was pretty good and I’m glad I read it. And there were a lot of good quotes!
Favorite Quotes from Lessons in Chemistry:
“She’d faced tough things before. She would weather what came. But weathering is called weathering for a reason; it erodes.”
“It’s a lot easier to have faith in something you can’t see, can’t touch, can’t explain, and can’t change, rather than to have faith in something you actually can…One’s self, I mean.”
“Humans were strange….the way they constantly battled dirt in their aboveground world, but after death willingly entombed themselves in it.”
“Idiots make it into every company. They tend to interview well.”
“People needed constant reassurance that things were okay or were going to be okay instead of the more obvious reality that things were bad and were only going to get worse.”
“Scientists expect mistakes, and because of it, we embrace failure.”
“All dogs have the ability to bite. Just as all humans have to ability to cause harm. The trick is to act in a reasonable way so that harm becomes unnecessary.”
“I think [religion] lets us off the hook. I think it teaches us that nothing is really our fault; that something or someone else is pulling the strings; that ultimately, we’re not to blame for the way things are; that to improve things, we should pray. But the truth is, we are very much responsible for the badness in the world. And we have the power to fix it.”
“Chemistry is change and change is the core of your belief system. Which is good because that’s what we need more of – people who refuse to accept the status quo, who aren’t afraid to take on the unacceptable.”
Lessons in Chemistry Review: In Conclusion
All in all, this was an enjoyable read with a lot of great qualities. But there were slow parts and the writing wasn’t my preferred style… I think I’ll say 3.5 stars for Lessons in Chemistry.
It was good, don’t get me wrong. And I would still encourage you all to read it. But with all the hype I saw around it maybe my expectations were too high.
It’s definitely the right book for people who like historical fiction and a strong female lead character.
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