Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
I wrote this review about a wonderful character called Elizabeth before the sad news about Queen Elizabeth II was announced yesterday. At the time of the announcement my husband and I were enjoying a meal in our local pub when a gentleman from another table stood up, banged the salt cellar on the bar and announced 'The Queen has passed, Long live the King'. Today feels strange and emotional. But I give thanks for the years of service and dignity that the Queen had given us.
I'm kicking off my Autumn reviews with a book that has been getting a lot of buzz at the moment. This has been featured on Between the Covers, and made the shortlist for the Waterstones Debut of the Year. Always late to the party it wasn't until my good friend, Kate, told me it was the best book she had read for 10 years, that I finally sourced a copy from my lovely in-laws, reading it as part of our family reading group. Would it live up to the hype? Let's find out shall we?
Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact Elizabeth Zott would be the first point out that there is no such thing.
But its the early 1960's and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for on; Calvin Evans, the lonely, brilliant, Nobel Prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love - with 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 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.
Better believe the hype baby because this book is a 5 Star read all the way!
The novel is essentially split into two, the first part leading up to Elizabeth's cookery show and then the fall-out from the show. The novel provides a glimpse into attitudes to women in the 1960's. which is, in effect abominable.
Women were seen as only fit for running a home and having babies. For those in work, bearing in mind they would have to give up their career once they married, had any talent or intelligence discounted. After all, surely this came from a male colleague? A male colleague who was willing to take all the credit for any success. Indeed Elizabeth's scientific work is deemed as using the influence of the brilliant Calvin. Her knowledge ignored. Worst still is the objectification, the sexual assaults and rape.
Elizabeth is a truly wonderful character, almost perplexed at these attitudes and focussed on her passion for Chemistry. She knows her mind and wants to change worlds with her scientific work. When someone tells her 'You can't', she swiftly answers 'Why can't I' refusing to let her gender stop her.
Even when she is fired from Hastings research after undergoing a personal tragedy, her only option being to present a cookery show for the housewives of middle America, she chooses to use it as an opportunity to empower women. For those with the hardback, page 360 of the book is its manifesto
When you go home today, ask yourself what you will change, and then get started.
The heart of the book is provided by Elizabeth's dog Six-Thirty. I always say we do not deserve dogs, and it is Six Thirty's observations that provide an extra level. He is an anchor for the book, beautifully commenting on events in the book. Six-Thirty's back story is fascinating and provides illumination about those high achieving Alsatians.
In conclusion, characters with heart and beautifully written. I am fully expecting this book to be on end of year favourite book lists, I already know it will be on mine. An easy 5 Star Read.