Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Narrated by Miranda Raison with Pandora Sykes
Standalone historical fiction. Soon to be an Apple TV Series.
I often find that the books completely out of my normal wheelhouse end up being the ones I love the most. I had been going back and forth on whether I should listen to Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus; I have seen so much publicity for it, and when I went in Barnes and Noble I saw it displayed as their book of the year. Then I heard Apple TV is making it into a series, so I decided to see if I agree with the hype, and fit Lessons in Chemistry in as my last audiobook of 2022.
At first I regretted it. I was a little bored at the beginning, and to be honest, I was slow to warm up. But as I listened more, I became more and more entranced.
“Sometimes I think,” she said slowly, “that if a man were to spend a day being a woman in America, he wouldn’t make it past noon.”
Lessons in Chemistry features Elizabeth Zott, a genius chemist in the 1950s and 1960s. Back then women didn’t have scientific careers, they weren’t taken seriously, only taken advantage of.
“Imagine if all men took women seriously. Education would change. The workforce would revolutionize. Marriage counselors would go out of business. Do you see my point?”
When she falls in love with a fellow scientist but doesn’t want to marry him, she is immediately labeled a whore, and fired from her job when she became pregnant out of wedlock.
“Elizabeth Zott held grudges too. Except her grudges were mainly reserved for a patriarchal society founded on the idea that women were less. Less capable. Less intelligent. Less inventive. A society that believed men went to work and did important things—discovered planets, developed products, created laws—and women stayed at home and raised children.”
Struggling to make ends meet, the super-serious Miss Zott takes a job hosting a new afternoon cooking show, “Supper at Six”, where they want her to be a friendly, sexy housewife. Ha! Elizabeth Zott, who turned her home kitchen into a science lab and makes coffee in beakers, is not going to play like she’s a housewife.
“For Elizabeth, cooking wasn’t some preordained feminine duty. As she’d told Calvin, cooking was chemistry. That’s because cooking actually is chemistry.”
Oh how I ended up LOVING this book! I think I actually loved it more after reading than during. The more I think about it, the more I listen to the quotes I bookmarked, the more I fall for Lessons In Chemistry.
“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.”
- How quirky and strange Elizabeth came off.
- I absolutely LOVED her daughter Mad.
- Her dog. At first it seemed stupid but I ended up loving Six Thirty.
- Elizabeth is such a strong female character who always stays true to herself.
- Lots of funny moments in a weird, quirky way.
- Such a colorful, interesting cast of characters.
- Elizabeth was all about logic. She kind of reminded me of Data from Star Trek (IYKYK). I think that she was portrayed as on the spectrum, a spectrum they didn’t have back then.
- I think Elizabeth is written maybe a bit too forward thinking for the time, I’m not sure women even had thoughts like some of hers. It’s clearly written by a current-times feminist.
- Everything is a little too overdone, though I think it’s deliberate. She’s overly quirky, her daughter is overly smart, the men are all over-the-top misogynist…
- There was a graphic rape scene with results that seemed a little too glossed over.
- The book could have done without the subplot of Calvin’s parentage.
Miranda Raison did an amazing job as the quirky, formal scientist. I think it was her delivery that helped me enjoy the book so much.
The Down & Dirty:
Rating: 4.75 Stars*, 4.5 Narration
*It felt like 5 stars when I finished but I can’t rate 5 stars with things on my dislike list
Purchase Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus