Books,  Reviews

Lessons in Chemistry

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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 change the status quo.

Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.

Synopsis source: Goodreads


Genre(s): Fiction, Historical Fiction, Feminism
HB&W Rating: 3
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Barnes & Noble has this as their Number 1 book of 2022, so when I (finally) jumped on the Book of the Month bandwagon, it was my first selection. Reading the description above, it sounded right up my alley (women in male-dominated careers, feminism, humor) and of course I remembered everyone talking about this book and how great it was. However, I am not sure I feel the same. This is one of those times when I’m not sure I read the same book as whoever wrote the synopsis for it. It was okay, I liked it, but I don’t know that it was everything everyone made it out to be. In fact, after finishing the book, it’s taken me 3 weeks just to write this review.

First, as a warning, the narrative in this book takes some getting used to. We are given multiple POVs in the same chapter without much to tell us that a change in POV is happening. It threw me at first, but I got used to it pretty quickly. I came to love Six-Thirty’s POV the most.

There were some great lines in the book, and I definitely DID laugh out loud several times, but contrary to what the description leads you to believe, this is a serious book. Reading about rape, suicide, misogyny, and the grief at the passing of a loved one doesn’t really add up to humorous topics. It doesn’t start to get funny until more than halfway through the book and honestly, the first half of the book was brutal in parts.

TW: A rape is described graphically in this book.

Before I get into this more, let me just say that I am a fairly liberal Christian (Catholic). I am very much a live and let live kind of a person. While I may not always agree with others, I always try to be thoughtful and respectful of others opinions. So when I get into my next two problems with this book, it isn’t so much that I’m being political as it is that I’m pointing out a lack of thoughtfulness and respect in the author.

I felt a little bit like maybe this was one of those historical fictions where a woman from our present day goes back in time. Many of the feminist ideals that were pushed and represented here were from the lens of current feminist framework. It was all a bit tongue in cheek for me for this because I would have liked to have seen more effort put into the way a character from the 1950s and 60s would actually frame feminism. It felt like pushing the easy button and a bit hit over the head with feminist agenda. Don’t get me wrong, I 100% agree with what she was getting across, but the way it was handled sat wrong for me.

Speaking of pushing agendas, the faith thing also sat wrong for me. No matter how often she tells us in the book that it’s a free country and everyone is entitled to their beliefs and opinions, faith and religion were written completely negatively in everyway. To her point, she has a right to feel that way and write what she wants, but again, it sat very wrong with me. The whole thing smacked of extremism and intolerance to me.

For all the problems I had with it, it was still a compelling story, keeping me flipping pages and finishing the book in two days. I liked the overall story well enough to give it 3 stars, but I definitely don’t understand the hype on this one.

Until next time,

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