Book Review: Lessons in Chemistry is a Slow-Cooking Stew That You Shouldn’t Rush

Bonnie Garmus’s Lessons in Chemistry is a scientific experiment that fizzes, bubbles, and leaves you with a sense of wonder, writes Manasvi Madan.

Bonnie Garmus’s book Lessons in Chemistry that has succeeded in altering the perception of chemistry in pop culture by showcasing a more relatable, diverse, and engaging portrayal of the subject. It reduces the existing gap between the scientific and cultural landscapes.

Lessons in Chemistry is the literary equivalent of a slow-cooked masterpiece.

This intricately complex story by Bonnie Garmus isn’t just a novel; it’s a scientific symphony of sorts, one that orchestrates the elements of storytelling with the precision of a well-conducted experiment. Picture this: a female chemist, Elizabeth Zott, navigating the turbulent waters of mid-20th-century scientific patriarchy armed with nothing but her wit, intellect, and a periodic table that’s more than just a chart—it’s her reliable guide through the chemical maze of life.

The narrative unfolds like a meticulously designed experiment, with each chapter a carefully measured drop in the beaker of Elizabeth’s journey. If scientific breakthroughs were a form of art, then this novel is the Mona Lisa of the laboratory—a masterpiece with a molecular smile.

If we talk about Elizabeth, she is as complex and layered a character as the compounds she concocts. She doesn’t just break beakers; she breaks stereotypes. In a world where women in science are often relegated to playing second fiddle, Elizabeth grabs the baton and conducts her own course of discovery. A new maestro with a Bunsen burner as her instruments push to take centre stage.

The periodic table, which is a sacred scripture of the scientific community, becomes more than just a tool for Elizabeth—it’s a talisman, guiding her through the storm of societal expectations and scientific challenges. It’s like her own version of Harry Potter’s Marauder’s Map, secretly revealing not just the locations of people but the secrets of the universe, often ignored.

The prose of the novel is a delightful fusion of scientific precision and literary flair. The author manages to distil complex scientific concepts into a language that even a non-scientific mind can appreciate. It’s a bit like turning a lab report into a Shakespearean sonnet—unexpected yet strangely poetic.

And let’s not forget the supporting cast, the unsung heroes of any good experiment. From quirky fellow scientists to exasperated family members, each character brings their own chemical reaction and relevance to the narrative. It’s like watching a sitcom where every character is a unique element, and the laughs come in the form of scientific discoveries and personal revelations.

The novel’s exploration of failure and perseverance is where it truly shines. Elizabeth faces setbacks that would make even the most robust chemical compound crumble, yet she emerges from the chaos with a resilience that’s as inspiring as it is entertaining. We can call it a scientific comedy of errors, where every misstep is a punchline in the grand experiment of life.

While some readers might argue that the pacing is slower than waiting for water to boil, it seems like a deliberate decision by the author that allows the flavours of the narrative to marinate. It is like slow-cooking a stew; you wouldn’t want to rush because you know that by the time it’s ready, the depth of the flavours will be worth the wait.

It won’t be too far-fetched to call this book a scientific experiment that fizzes, bubbles, and leaves you with a sense of wonder. A celebration of the unshaken scientific spirit, a showcase of resilience, and a reminder that life, just like chemistry, is a grand experiment waiting to unfold all its brilliance. So, whether you’re a seasoned scientist or someone who thinks a pipette is a tiny trumpet, this novel offers a refreshing dive into the world where science and storytelling collide. Here’s to Lessons in Chemistry — the beaker of literary brilliance bubbling over with wit, wisdom, and the occasional explosion of laughter.

Pick up Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus from any Kunzum store or WhatsApp +91.8800200280 to order. Buy the book(s) and the coffee’s on us.

About the Reviewer:

She’s a curiosity driven reader who loves all things design, human psychology and behavioural science. Doodling is her chosen form of meditation and soundscapes are her favourite music. You can find her at – Linkedin and Instagram.

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