About the Book:
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.
One of the most unique novels I’ve read in a long time! This book spoke to me on SO many levels. The only other novel that resembles this one is ‘Elenor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ but this story stands on its own,
Elizabeth Zott is a brilliant chemist who has the great misfortune of living in 1950s America with rampant sexism and prejudice at every turn. After facing sexual harassment and much, much worse, she finds herself as as a single parent, jobless and facing a very bleak future. She literally falls into becoming the host of a local television cooking show called “Supper at Six”. But Elizabeth is not contest with cheerfully making nightly family meals. She wants to empower women all over the country. After all, chemistry is life!
“For Elizabeth, cooking wasn’t some preordained feminine duty. As she’d told Calvin, cooking was chemistry. That’s because cooking actually is chemistry.”
The show allows Elizabeth to raise her brilliant daughter Mad and also practice her beloved sport of rowing in the pre-dawn hours. All the producer of her show wants her to do is a simple cooking lesson each night but Elizabeth has bigger plans in mind. After all, women at that time were expected to be a housewife, secretary or teacher. If she has it her way, housewives all over the country will feel emboldened to change their lives for the better. For example, when Elizabeth cooks a chicken pot pie, she also gives a life lesson to her viewers:
“That brings us to the third bond,” Elizabeth said, pointing at another set of molecules, “the hydrogen bond—the most fragile, delicate bond of all. I call this the ‘love at first sight’ bond because both parties are drawn to each other based solely on visual information: you like his smile, he likes your hair. But then you talk and discover he’s a closet Nazi and thinks women complain too much. Poof. Just like that the delicate bond is broken. That’s the hydrogen bond for you, ladies—a chemical reminder that if things seem too good to be true, they probably are.”
This book contains some of the most memorable and quirky cast of supporting characters I’ve ever read. (And yes, my favorite is the family dog!) And I also love when an author gives chapter names, to me that is really going the extra creative mile. (Six-Thirty, The Smell of Failure, The Average Jane, 99 Percent, Normal, just to name a few)
This extraordinary book is humorous, yes, but in a darkly subversive way. It is also part historical fiction, part literary humor, part women’s fiction…but an absolute must-read, no matter what genre.
“Cooking is chemistry,” she was saying. “And chemistry is life. Your ability to change everything—including yourself—starts here.”
)P.S. Is this already being made into a movie? Because Anya-Taylor Joy would be a perfect Elizabeth! 🤩)