Friday 2 June 2023

Lessons in Chemistry

Finished May 28
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

I started this book months ago but kept setting it aside as it is so good I didn't want it to end. The ending is satisfying though, so I feel good about finishing it now. The novel takes place in the early 1960s in small town southern California, but the story reaches back further. While it starts with an incident in 1961 that has Elizabeth meeting Walter Pine and thus setting off a new career in television for her, we quickly jump back ten years earlier when Elizabeth Zott, a chemist at Hastings Research Institute met Calvin Evans, one of the head research chemists there. 
Seeing how the two met gives an insight into how chemistry both in the scientific sense and in the sense of human attraction is at play here. Elizabeth is a feminist because she's had to be to get as far as she has, dealing with multiple barriers along the way. 
We see her dysfunctional childhood, the loneliness of her life, and her drive for science. As we get to know Calvin, we find he has also had a difficult childhood and has had to make his own way through similar efforts to those of Elizabeth. However, because he is a man, one he proved his intelligence, it all became much easier. 
As they grow closer, we see how in some ways he makes things easier for Elizabeth, supporting her research, ensuring she has the supplies she needs, and in others making things harder because now she has been labelled as a woman who is sleeping her way to job success. 
When things go wrong and Elizabeth is left to fend for herself as a single mother and she struggles to support herself, her daughter Amelia, and their dog Six-Thirty. Six-Thirty had found Elizabeth and claimed her and they bonded quickly. 
There is so much in this book: love and loss; the fight for sexual equality, the subtle acts that work away at a person just trying to live their life. I loved this book so much. 

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