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Zusammenfassung von Lessons in Chemistry

Bonnie Garmus

A Novel

4.2 (253 Bewertungen)
22 Min.

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Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus is a witty and engaging novel about a MIT PhD candidate who navigates a world where academic success and personal fulfillment seem mutually exclusive. It challenges the stereotypical portrayal of women in science and shows the importance of following your passions.


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    A tale of two chemistry careers

    When we first meet Elizabeth Zott, the central character in Lessons in Chemistry, she is better known to her legions of fans as “Luscious Lizzy” – a no-nonsense but winningly charismatic TV chef who is revolutionizing the way 1950s-era America cooks and eats. Even President Lyndon B. Johnson watches Lizzy religiously.

    But before she became a television phenomenon, Lizzy was a chemist – specifically, an underpaid, underappreciated chemist. It wasn’t because she was bad at chemistry. On the contrary! It was because she was … a woman. 

    In the 1950s, the US wasn’t especially kind to ambitious women like Elizabeth Zott. Her employer, the Hastings Research Institute in California, is no exception. It offers her an unremarkable career working on minor lab projects where she’s paid far less than her male colleagues; the unspoken assumption that Elizabeth will make coffee and perform administrative tasks like a glorified secretary rather than a serious scientist; and an actual secretary, Miss Frask, who is always admonishing Elizabeth when she acts “unladylike” – and who has clearly never heard of words like feminism or sisterhood.

    But there is one thing to like about Hastings: Calvin Evans, the institute superstar. Not that Elizabeth likes the brilliant chemist very much to start with – during an argument over beaker allocation, Calvin mistakes Elizabeth for a secretary. But he soon sees her for the talented, ambitious woman she is. 

    Though they’re equally intelligent, Calvin and Elizabeth’s careers have been very different so far. Calvin received 43 offers of employment after graduating from college, and ended up choosing Hastings because he liked the weather in California. Elizabeth chose to work at Hastings because it was the only offer she got. Elizabeth had initially planned to pursue a doctorate focusing on abiogenesis – the theory that, back in the days of primordial soup, living forms arose from nonliving forms. But then her lecherous supervisor, Dr. Mayer, sexually assaulted her in his office – and Elizabeth fended off his advances with a swift pencil stab to his hand. When Mayer massaged the optics of the situation to make it look like she attacked him, the promised pathway to her doctorate evaporated just as quickly as her reputation.

    Elizabeth’s boss at Hastings, Dr. Donatti, hasn’t made any advances on her – but he seems determined to keep her from doing any of her own research. However, he does eventually approve her abiogenesis project after a rich donor contacts him. This donor has read a paper on abiogenesis by E. Zott and wants to fund further research into the area. Donatti lets the donor believe that Zott is a man, and quietly diverts most of the money to other projects. 

    Calvin and Elizabeth agree to work together in a strictly professional capacity – each hoping the other might not be so strict about the professionalism as their mutual attraction blossoms. Sparring over protein synthesis ensues. Soon enough, Elizabeth and Calvin are dating, though their relationship setup is far from conventional for the time. They move in together without getting married, or even engaged – Elizabeth doesn’t want to get married because she’s worried her own academic work will be overshadowed by Calvin’s. Besides, she’s been publishing under the last name of “Zott”; she can’t take on a new name now. So they get a dog, who they call Six-Thirty. And instead of paying rent to Calvin, who owns their shared home, Elizabeth decides to cook for him five nights a week. Cooking, she likes to remind Calvin, is chemistry.

    They continue in this vein – scandalizing their colleagues, and joyously happy to have found each other. And then, one night while he’s out walking Six-Thirty, Calvin is hit by a police car and dies. 


    Reading Elizabeth Zott’s story, it becomes crystal clear why, even now, STEM fields continue to be male-dominated. At every step of her scientific career, Elizabeth is forced to justify her presence in academia to her doubtful colleagues. At Hastings, she’s routinely mistaken for an assistant. Even Calvin, the love of her life, initially takes her for a secretary. Her colleagues are dismissive of her work and take her support for granted. And, as the Dr. Mayer incident neatly illustrates, misogyny – ranging from lewd comments to outright assault – isn’t exactly frowned upon in the workplace.

    In scenes where Elizabeth and Calvin playfully riff on topics from amino acids to silkworms and their pheromones, it’s abundantly clear that Elizabeth is Calvin’s intellectual match. Yet the prevailing attitudes of the 1950s work against her. Women, it’s assumed, aren’t serious scientists and shouldn’t have ambitions outside of marriage, child-rearing, and homemaking. If Elizabeth Zott wants to achieve professional success, she’ll have to overcome the many odds that are stacked against her.

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    Worum geht es in Lessons in Chemistry?

    Lessons in Chemistry (2022) is the story of Elizabeth Zott, a brilliant scientist who has the misfortune of being a woman in 1950s America. After a frustrating failed academic career, Zott finds success in an unlikely place: as the host of a television cooking show.

    Bewertung von Lessons in Chemistry

    Lessons in Chemistry (2021) is a captivating novel that explores love, ambition, and the pursuit of scientific discovery. Here's why you should definitely read it:

    • With its compelling characters and intricate relationships, the book offers a rich and immersive reading experience.
    • The story seamlessly weaves together history, chemistry, and romance, making it a unique and intriguing combination.
    • Through its exploration of scientific ethics and gender dynamics, the book sparks thought-provoking conversations and inspires deeper reflection.

    Wer Lessons in Chemistry lesen sollte

    • Foodies interested in the science behind cooking
    • Feminists looking for a window into the history of women in STEM
    • Anyone who appreciates stories that are sharp and warm-hearted

    Über den Autor

    Bonnie Garmus is a copywriter and creative director who has worked across the fields of medicine and tech. Lessons in Chemistry, her first novel, is an international best seller.

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    Lessons in Chemistry FAQs 

    What is the main message of Lessons in Chemistry?

    The main message of Lessons in Chemistry is the unexpected power of science to change lives.

    How long does it take to read Lessons in Chemistry?

    The reading time for Lessons in Chemistry varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Lessons in Chemistry a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Lessons in Chemistry is a captivating read for science enthusiasts. It blends romance and chemistry with intriguing characters.

    Who is the author of Lessons in Chemistry?

    The author of Lessons in Chemistry is Bonnie Garmus.