Lessons in Chemistry is a historical fiction debut book by Bonnie Garmus that centers on the life of Elizabeth Zott, a scientist turned host of a popular cooking show called Supper at Six in the 1950s and 1960s. Elizabeth faces sexism, adversity, and trauma, but never compromises her beliefs.
I delighted in the comedic wit and felt true sorrow during the times of hardship for Elizabeth. I also adored the cast of supporting characters in Elizabeth’s life—her love, Calvin Evans, the dog, Six-Thirty, her neighbor, Harriet, Reverend Wakely and Mad, her incredibly smart daughter.
Both the protagonist, Elizabeth, and the book itself, Lessons in Chemistry, are unapologetically feminist. Although described as physically attractive, it is Elizabeth’s intellect and uncompromising determination that carry her through life. She never utilizes her beauty as power, even though she exists during a time when women are more prized for their appearance rather than their brains or work ethic. Elizabeth never dumbs herself down to make the men around her feel superior.
Major kudos to Bonnie Garmus for this masterpiece of a debut novel. I was moved by and rooted for Elizabeth Zott during the entirety of this book. At times hilarious, but also containing tear-jerker moments, Lessons in Chemistry is a reminder to not allow societal expectations to dictate one’s life.