From the title, Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus seems like it’s going to be a book about science (and it is), but this book is also about SO. MUCH. MORE!
Having no interest in science since the 8th grade (turned off the subject thanks to a frog dissection class gone wrong), I wouldn’t normally pick up a book with the word ‘chemistry’ in the title. But thanks to a friend's recommendation on facebook, I thought why not? I’ll give it a crack. And I’m so happy I did!
Set in the 1950s and 60s, Lessons in Chemistry follows the life of Elizabeth Zott - an super smart female chemist who wants to further her investigations into abiogenesis, but at every turn finds her efforts thwarted by misogyny and the limitations placed on women by society... this book does a brilliant job of giving readers a window into what life was like for women of the time.
Here’s a taste of some of the sentiments shared in the book…
Women don’t work... How dare a woman consider working! A woman's job is to marry, get pregnant, have lots of babies, stay in the kitchen cooking for her husband, and be happy about it. Not only is that the breadth of her job description, that’s all she is interested in. Women couldn’t possibly have any intelligence past that (they are certainly not smarter than men), and women have a place in society. Elizabeth Zott should know her place and because she continually defies it, she needs to be put back in her place!
Elizabeth's constant fight to be taken seriously by colleagues (and society at large) is one extremely frustrating aspect of this book. But this book is also heartbreaking and emboldening.
While this book does have a lot of science talk in it, what makes it amazing (in my eyes) are these two things:
It opens your mind to the world of science - For the first time since grade 8, science makes sense to me! This book has piqued my interest in science, and I want to know more about it (something that I never thought possible for a business, drama, english, and ancient history loving high-school student!)
Yes, it’s about science, but it’s about relationships too (which is totally up my alley!) The intimacy, intricacies and nuances of romantic relationships, the power of unassuming friendships, parent-child relationships and the fierce love a mother has for her daughter, the relationship between women and society - and how those perceptions and stereotypes play out… It touches on so many different types of relationships and the impact they have in one's life. But what gripped me most of all in this book (and had me in tears many times), was the magical way this book has of getting the female reader to think about her relationship with herself! ... and WOAH! That was unexpected, powerful, and absolutely wonderful!
Through the experiences Elizabeth Zott has in the book - from working in a lab as a chemist, to suddenly finding herself hosting a cooking show on afternoon television - this book transports you into her world.
It is fantastically written (amazing job Bonnie Garmus!), and you will not want to put it down (except for maybe a day when something tragic happens and you’re left heartbroken for her… at least, that’s what I did. But of course I came right back and started reading again the next day, because I just had to know what happened next!)
If you’re someone who’s feeling unsure or you're questioning what you’re up to in life right now, this book could leave you feeling confident to make your next move.
If you're a mother who's feeling overwhelmed or overlooked, this book could leave you feeling able, capable, powerful and seen.
If you’re looking for a good read to escape into and be marvelled by, this book is also for you.
If you’re someone who loves to learn through others experiences, again this book is for you.
In fact, this book is for everyone - it’s that damn good! (clearly, it’s converted me and I’m now a raving fan!)
If there were anything to change about this book, I would consider changing the title. If I had my way, I’d change it to - Lessons in Chemistry (and Life!) - just a little something I’d add to the end of the title because that’s what I feel this book is about… Chemistry and living the life you want (not the life that society says you should have or want).
This book is happily educational, moving and powerful, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone.
I absolutely loved it and with my self-appointed rating system, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. It’s a knockout!
PS - Want another knockout read? I'm biased, but if you're a parent or carer (or any other type of grownup who knows some amazing kids), the guide that I've written,"How to Talk to Kids About Money" is awesome! Check it out below.
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