“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.”
Oh my gosh, I borrowed this book from Brown County Library’s Overdrive digital media and, for the first time in a long time, after I finished reading the book I promptly went out and bought it to add to my collection. I. Loved. Everything. About. This. Book.
Sometimes when you read a book that has 21st century sensibilities in a 20th century world, it doesn’t work out. But that’s not the case for Lessons in Chemistry (Amazon), which is set in the early 1960’s America. Elizabeth Zott IS the women’s movement come-to-life a decade before her time. She’s a woman in the science field, who doesn’t need a man to make her complete, she doesn’t need conventional marriage and kids, she doesn’t need the approval of her co-workers. She’s a force unto herself. But all that changes when she meets Calvin Evans. Or rather, it doesn’t change, until it does.
Fast forward a few years and Zott finds herself a single mother, fired from her work for the audacity of getting pregnant, trying to support her daughter. She finds herself hosting an afternoon cooking show on local television, and in her own way, changing the way women think about their place in society. Remember, it wasn’t until 1970 that a woman could have a credit card in her own name, that most women were married with kids, that they had absolutely no autonomy with their husbands.
Lessons in Chemistry is also laugh out loud funny, something I rarely find. Zott’s ambition, intelligence and drive is not what’s so funny. Rather, it’s the cluelessness of the men she encounters. It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that the men’s reactions were the norm at one time and not the exception. We’ve come a long way as a society, but truth be told, I still know many older men who hold these antiquated beliefs.
I would have to say that Lessons in Chemistry is one of my top reads so far this year, most definitely the top beach read of the summer. I just wish the book cover was less pink and reflected Elizabeth Zott’s personality more.
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