Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus: A Detailed Review


Bonnie Jean Garmus, the brilliant mind behind “Lessons in Chemistry,” is an accomplished American author and former copywriter. Her debut novel has caused quite a stir in the literary community, garnering praise for its captivating story and thought-provoking themes. The book unfolds a fascinating story of Elizabeth Zott, a research chemist challenging gender norms and workplace discriminations in 1960s California. So, in this article, we’ll provide a thorough review of “Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus. Also, we will discuss its plot, characters, key themes, and writing style, providing readers an in-depth understanding of this debut work. Thus, we will guide you through the key aspects of the book, whether you are looking for entertainment or seeking a reflective journey.

Basic details of “lessons in Chemistry”

  • Title: Lessons in Chemistry.
  • Author: Bonnie Jean Garmus.
  • Print Length: 390 pages (Hardcover).
  • Published: April 5, 2022.
  • Publisher: Doubleday Books.
  • Language: English.
  • Genre: Historical fiction, adult fiction.
  • Setting: Commons, California (United States).
  • Content Warnings: Rape, Sexism, Homophobia, Suicide, Workplace Harassment, and gender discrimination.

“Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus”: Plot overview

The story revolves around Elizabeth Zott, a research chemist in 1960s California. As Elizabeth resiliently navigates male dominated world, she confronts gender norms, discrimination and workplace harassment. However, her life takes an interesting turn when Calvin Evans, a lonely, Nobel-prize grudge-holder falls in love with Elizabeth Zott.

But just like science, life is unpredictable. So, after a few years, Elizabeth finds herself a single mother and a hesitant star of a popular American cooking show, “Supper at six”. Blending her scientific knowledge with unconventional cooking methods, she challenges societal expectations and traditional roles. Beautifully blending humor and thought-provoking insights, “Lessons in Chemistry” offers a captivating plot that keeps readers engaged from start to end.


  • Elizabeth Zott: research chemist and host of Supper at Six.
  • Calvin Evans: research chemist at Hastings Research Institute and rower.
  • Madeline (Mad) Zott: Elizabeth and Calvin’s daughter.
  • Amanda Pine: Mad’s elementary school friend.
  • Walter Pine: Amanda’s dad and TV producer.
  • Dr. Meyers: researcher at UCLA and rapist.
  • Dr. Donatti: Elizabeth’s boss at Hastings.
  • Miss Frask: secretary at Hastings and later Rev. Wakely’s secretary.
  • Six-Thirty: Elizabeth’s dog.
  • Dr. Boryweitz: lab-mate at Hastings.
  • Dr. Mason: men’s rowing captain and OB/Gyn.
  • John: Elizabeth’s brother.
  • Harriet Sloane: Elizabeth’s neighbor.
  • Mrs. Mudford: Mad’s teacher.
  • Reverend Wakely: Calvin’s pen pal and later Mad’s ancestry-project helper.
  • Phil Lebensmal: KCTV’s executive producer.
  • Rose: makeup artist for Supper at Six.
  • Avery Parker: Founder of the Parker Foundation and Calvin’s mother.
  • Wilson: Liaison from the Parker Foundation.
  • Franklin Roth: Reporter for Life magazine.

Central themes of “Lessons in Chemistry”

Bonnie Garmus expertly develops several compelling themes and motifs throughout the novel, enriching the plot and offering multilayered reading experience. Let’s explore most predominant themes with Elizabeth Zott’s captivating journey:

  • Gender discrimination: The book explores the enduring influence of gender discrimination on education, careers and personal realms.
  • Workplace degradation: Akin to gender discrimination, Elizabeth also faces abuse and humiliation at her workplace, highlighting the challenges women encountered in 1960s.
  • Science, religion and faith: Woven throughout the book are the contrasting aspects of religion and science. However, Elizabeth’s atheistic perspective provides a unique lens to explore the intersection of scientific pursuits and personal beliefs.
  • Family dynamics: Emphasizing the family importance, the theme of family trees and relationships plays an important role in shaping the narrative and adds depth and complexity to the storyline.
  • Acceptance and Change: Embodying the slow yet necessary process of acceptance and change, Elizabeth grapples with societal norms, daring to challenge and change status quo.

Writing style of Bonnie Jean Garmus

In “Lessons in Chemistry,” the author’s writing style emerges as a unique hallmark of the story, enhancing the readers’ experience with its engaging qualities. Moreover, Garmus uses a language that both vibrant and accessible, capturing the essence of the novel with utmost clarity and flair. Also, her tone is a beautiful balance of humor and thoughtfulness that connects readers with the characters and plot seamlessly. Furthermore, Garmus effortlessly explain complex scientific details to engage audience from different backgrounds. Finally, her carefully chosen words, in-depth tone and engaging style ensures that the readers are not only entertained but also urged to understand the novel’s underlying messages.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus: Review and Evaluation

While exploring “Lessons in Chemistry,” I discovered a story that beautifully blends uniqueness and realism. The depiction of Elizabeth Zott, facing real life’s challenges, felt refreshingly genuine. Also, the characters, including the dog Six-30, provided a unique touch. Moreover, Elizabeth’s inspiring tale, where she secures a cooking show job through her intelligence and culinary skills, indicates protagonist’s resilience, adaptability and creativity. Furthermore, the book is labeled as “darkly funny,” but I found it more dark than humorous. It highlights the harsh realities faced by women during that era.

Although the novel comes with an engaging plot and well-developed characters, some critical points emerged. Firstly, the portrayal of every male character as sexist, arrogant, and selfish, with consistently negative depiction of religious situations, may at times felt exaggerated. Secondly, a few things felt arbitrary, including dog’s name, the intelligence of Six-30, and exaggerated maturity of 6-year-old daughter. Finally, excessive stubbornness and lack of empathy in some characters make them less relatable.

To conclude, despite of few minor issues, “Lessons in Chemistry” unfolds a captivating narrative, blending empowerment, realism and thought-provoking themes. Also, the characters, especially Elizabeth and Six-30, resonate with depth and complexity, making the novel an engaging read. So, immerse yourself in the pages of “Lessons in Chemistry” for a lingering literary experience. And don’t forget to subscribe our blog for more interesting content and regular updates. Happy Reading!

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