I won’t lie to you, I picked up Lessons In Chemistry because it had a really appealing cover and ai had seen some really positive things about it. For £5 in my local supermarket, I couldn’t say no. Then when I got home, posted it to my social and the tweet ended up getting a massively positive reaction, I knew it had to be the next book I picked up!
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Lessons in Chemistry follows the story of the incredible Elizabeth Zott, an incredibly intelligent woman who is trying to push against all of the boundaries that women faced in the 60s and beyond. She’s an incredible scientist (a chemist to be specific) who refuses to accept any limitations put on her by her gender. She goes on to host one of the most popular cooking shows (which focuses on the chemistry behind all of her recipes) on which she uses her platform to promote the power of independence of women, causing both uproar and rebellion from those who oppose and those who support it.
Lessons in Chemistry plot – 4.5/5
Lessons in Chemistry starts off straight away introducing you to the incredible person that is Elizabeth Zott, quickly you’ll come to respect her as she’s someone who uses her intelligence to make sure she never feels intimidated by anybody. However, despite the lighter tone the book sets at the beginning there are some much darker messages throughout, some of which may cause uncomfortableness for readers. However, these only cause to push the narrative of how women were treated in the 60s and prior.
I enjoyed how there’s a very romantic element to this book but at no time does it dip into the unbelievable, the cringe or the pure and simple carnal desire. Both Elizabeth and her partner are scientists and so their love and relationship are all based on logic and reasoning. They rarely fight because one is factually right and the other factually wrong, they appreciate one another for the simple reason that they intellectually challenge one another and cause each other to want to do better at everything. It’s so refreshing and a love story I could fully get behind.
A certain part of me felt that some of the lines used against Zott were overexaggerated and too literal. We always imagine women to have been suppressed but there are times throughout the book where male (and even female) characters quite literally refer to her being a woman as to why she can’t and shouldn’t be allowed to do even the most basic of tasks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not fully aware of how bad it was back then (luckily I’ve grown up in a time when you wouldn’t even consider sexism) but at times it felt a little shoved in your face.
Lessons in Chemistry doesn’t get a huge 5 out of 5 rating from me on the plot as there were elements where it felt a little slow. Some parts in the middle felt a tad monotonous and lingered on the ‘ok, what’s going to happen next?’ feeling.
Lessons in Chemistry characters – 5/5
For a debut novel, Garmus has absolutely nailed the characters in Lessons in Chemistry. As I’ve already said, you can’t help but adore Elizabeth Trott, both for her intelligence and for her unintentional humour. Garmus balances her personality well enough that she doesn’t become obnoxious or unlikeable – she is still human and suffers from sadness and feels empathy. She’s great.
The other supporting characters are also fantastic. Without spoiling too much, Trott meets a man who accompanies her throughout her TV career who we start off disliking due to his basic idea of how women should be seen on TV but whom we grow to love as he realises Trott’s intelligence and potential.
The one character I disliked, and quite possibly I was supposed to, was the character of Zott’s boss. He’s the first and constant character who patronises and diminishes her work – essentially working as the villain throughout the book. He’s rude and arrogant and Zott often ends up winning one over him when she can.
Lessons in Chemistry final rating – 4.5
Lessons in Chemistry is brilliant. Elizabeth Trott is exactly how I’d want my daughter to be and she’s accompanied by some warm and deep characters and also some who are very unlikeable. The plot tapers out at times but the way Garmus writes makes it so easy to follow and the characters make you more interested in what’s happening than you likely would with weaker ones. If you’ve seen Lessons in Chemistry on your feeds and wondered if it’s actually as good as people say – yes, yes it is!
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