Lessons in Chemistry

A Novel

400 pages

English language

Published July 10, 2022 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

ISBN:
978-0-385-54734-5
Copied ISBN!
OCLC Number:
1240265659

View on OpenLibrary

4 stars (47 reviews)

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 …

14 editions

A fun if flawed book

3 stars

I suspect others will like this a lot more than I did. I thought there were three books in one. The first was a very rom-comesque opening, down to the two eventual lovers hating each other to begin with. I had almost no time for this and almost stopped reading. After that there is the second part of the book which details the single mother's struggles to achieve what she wants, with those struggles mostly being misogyny. I liked that some of the misogyny was perpetrated by other women which makes it all the more realistic. The final part is a kind of mystery, which is enjoyable but not quite gripping.

I can understand why this book is more popular with female readers than male ones. However accurate it may be, it's just not that enjoyable to read 200 pages about how terrible your own gender is.

An amusing if somewhat inaccurate portrait of a women scientist in the 50's and 60's.

4 stars

As someone who worked as a biochemist in the 80's and 90's I quite enjoyed this book. There were inaccuracies in the science; as others have pointed out, no DNA sequencing in the 50's and 60's, but I felt the misogyny and treatment of women were quite realistic.

It does seem like a novel informed by today's values that would not have been written a few years ago. There seem to be a lot of books like this being written. It's particularly jarring for historical novels. It's encouraging that we can now recognize the harms that were done in the past, but it makes such novels seem a bit like fantasies.

Neatly tied together, a little too neat

3 stars

Content warning minor spoilers

"Fun Summer Read" meets dramatic and poignant feminist tale

4 stars

This book was fun and also inspirational. I didn't really have many expectations when I started it, but I liked the characters. Don't really have too much to say about it other than it had some great things to say about gender equality and also a really awesome canine character.

Also, readers should be aware that there is at least one and a half scenes in this book that depict sexual violence.

Review of 'Lessons in Chemistry' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

Very readable and I enjoyed some elements, but I found the start rather trite and the end quite rushed. The misogyny was exhausting - maybe I need a break from sexism books. I did quite enjoy the cooking show scenes and I loved Harriet and Six-Thirty.

Spoilers

I found the fridging of Calvin quite disappointing, as it killed the relationship as soon as it was fully established, as so many stories do. Long term partnerships are so important to our lives and I feel like we never get to read about them.

I also found the awful behaviour of the boys home priests really depressing to read, and even as an atheist it felt like a bit of a brutal characterisation. The graphic rape scene at the start was also a shock and horrible to read.

Sheldon Cooper meets Mrs. Maisel

3 stars

I bought this book because I thought it were a realistic depiction of a female scientiest in the later 1950s/early 1960s. It most definitely is NOT anything like that, but it might still be worth a read.

The book follows the life of (fictitious) chemist Elisabeth Zott during the 1950s until 1961. She is pictured as a brillant, but very quirky scientist who is trying to succeed as a woman in academia as well as in personal life. Occasionally, there are time jumps into her past and changes in perspective (most of the time, her boyfriend or her dog), but most of the time the story focuses on Elisabeth. The book is not directly told through her perspective, though, so the reader does not only follow her stream of thoughts, but also people's reaction towards her behavior. Eliabeth's story is probably a story many women in STEM can relate to, …

Review of 'Lessons in Chemistry' on 'Goodreads'

1 star

Did I read a different book? It probably doesn't help that I am a scientist and have known lots of women scientists, who could hardly be put into one archetype as books like this love to do. I have also seen what academia is like both pre and post millenium. I know when DNA and RNA were discovered and how likely it might be for a 60s chemist to pursue abiogenesis with vigor. Beyond the science, not much in this book felt realistic for the time period, and when it did, it was downright depressing and infuriating. The many frank discussions that are had also lead characters, oddly, to better things. I have had the exact opposite experience in life - people usually don't like it when they're confronted with uncomfortable truths; they're not liberated by it. And they don't appreciate hearing them. There was very little in this book …

Review of 'Lessons in Chemistry' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

I'm struggling with how I feel about this one. On one hand, I related with so many of Elizabeth's experiences as a woman in STEM and thoroughly enjoyed six-thirty's character, in fact the dog was my favorite part of this book.

However so much of this seemed out of time, like the book either wasn't sure what era it was in or the author was combining multiple eras. At times it also felt like Elizabeth might be neurodivergent, others it felt like she was just an awkward scientist, so overall I wasn't entirely sure what her story was or how to interpret her actions. Elizabeth is also a terrible science communicator. The book shows women eating up Elizabeth's every science-heavy word, but in reality she wasn't actually making science accessible to these people with how she acted and how she spoke about it to them. That whole part of the …

avatar for vinibaggio

rated it

3 stars
avatar for esouthe0

rated it

4 stars
avatar for Affekt

rated it

4 stars
avatar for Affekt

rated it

3 stars
avatar for HoneyBee

rated it

3 stars
avatar for LaDragonista

rated it

4 stars
avatar for aaronhktan

rated it

3 stars
avatar for FWT

rated it

4 stars
avatar for dfculver

rated it

5 stars
avatar for gvrijswijk

rated it

3 stars
avatar for anicetus

rated it

5 stars
avatar for velvet_shrimp

rated it

4 stars
avatar for samfirke

rated it

3 stars
avatar for yepstepz

rated it

3 stars
avatar for anaulin

rated it

5 stars
avatar for SAKs

rated it

4 stars
avatar for Graciesg2001

rated it

5 stars
avatar for littlezen

rated it

5 stars
avatar for erichdouglass

rated it

4 stars
avatar for alexbuch

rated it

4 stars
avatar for bookit

rated it

4 stars
avatar for Biwa

rated it

5 stars
avatar for Lasairiona

rated it

3 stars
avatar for redacted

rated it

4 stars
avatar for Satch

rated it

4 stars
avatar for EtherReads

rated it

5 stars

Subjects

  • American literature

Lists