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Book Review: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus


Who should read it: Fans of historical fiction and women in STEM.


Why you should read it: Lessons in Chemistry is an eye-opening book which I’m sure plenty of women in the Energy industry can relate to!


‘Your availability to change everything – including yourself – starts here.’


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. But it's the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality.


Elizabeth is constantly written off by her male counterparts, despite being a truly excellent scientist. A few years later, Elizabeth finds herself the reluctant television star of Supper at Six, an unconventional cooking programme which ends up empowering women everywhere. What sets Elizabeth apart is her unique approach to cooking, infused with scientific reasoning and rational commentary. Her unorthodox style challenges the traditional gender roles and expectations of the era.


Lessons in Chemistry is fantastic at showcasing women in STEM and the inequality women face. This is a vivid portrayal of the 1960s and captures the challenges faced by women in this period brilliantly. The narrative showcases the inherent sexism and inequality of the time but also highlights the resilience and determination of women like Elizabeth, who refuse to conform to societal norms. As a female chemical engineer working in the energy industry this really hit home. This book serves as a reminder that the boundaries women have smashed are worth celebrating and learning from.


I love everything that this book stands for and Elizabeth Zott has gone straight up there as one of my favourite female main characters in a long time. She is blunt, transparent, and unapologetically herself throughout the entire story. Her sharp and sarcastic comments made me laugh out loud.


My absolute favourite character was Six Thirty (her dog), the star of the show! Six Thirty is anthropomorphic; he has human characteristics and understands exactly what Elizabeth says. Despite being unrealistic, I enjoyed this as this lightened up what would be a somewhat heavy book.


This book is so inspiring and empowering. It does hurt my soul though that this book is set in the 60s and little has changed in the way of equality.


Overall, a read that absolutely deserves the hype and one I'd recommend wholeheartedly.


GARMUS, B. (2024) Lessons in chemistry. S.l.: Penguin.


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