Book Report: Lessons in Chemistry

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This is the book everyone seems to be reading. I wish I’d loved it more than I do, but I don’t. Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus (2022) is full of varied characters and has great intentions. Garmus obviously put in a lot of work learning facts that make the novel seem realistic to fans of chemistry, cooking, live television, and rowing (yes, there’s a rowing subplot). I just wish she’d taken a little more time to not have every single character by a caricature of themselves and their role in society.

I have to salute any book that makes a big deal about the lack of opportunities for advancement for women in the last 1950s and early 1960s. So, hooray for that. This book makes no bones about it, smart women got a raw deal back then. But did every patriarchal and misogynist character HAVE to spew forth such predictable things? And why does every book-smart person have to be socially inept?

It got to be every time a new man showed up, I just waited for him to put the main character down, lie to get their own way, or try to assault some woman or another. And the female characters are no better. They are portrayed as gossips, nags, women in unhappy relationships, and whatever other sixties stereotype you can come up with. I’m giving myself the impression that I don’t really like anyone in the book, and that actually may be true. They just aren’t very nuanced. I was fond of the minister who was the protagonist’s genius husband’s old pen pal, though. He was thoughtful and kind AND didn’t end up marrying the heroine. There, one cliche avoided.

Sadly, I also guessed all the plot twists before they happened, as well. You can’t love them all.

But if you are a major fan of speeches about the inequality of women, like to talk about food in terms of its chemistry (I liked that part), socially inept geniuses of all ages, or rowing, you might enjoy this more than I did. I was pleased to not see any typos, too.


Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

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