Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus


January 2023

Lessons in Chemistry turned out to be much more than the big hug in a book so many reviewers promised. It is very smart, and incredibly sad too, but most of all it is brilliantly original, breaking so many ‘rules’ about contemporary debuts that I wanted to hug it, and hug author Bonnie Garmus. One of the main characters is a dog, for starters, while another dies early on in the book. Protagonist Elizabeth Zott is awkward and ornery and has all the hallmarks of the unlikeable women apparently banned from commercial fiction, with few friends and no interest in making any, no interest in children and a determination to take women and cooking seriously.

I’ve really enjoyed listening to Garmus talking about her route to publication in middle age. She took a creative writing course at Curtis Brown similar to the one I did at Faber, and kept writing. She doesn’t need my endorsement to sell any more books, but this is a smart, sassy and joyful read - so joyful I guess that I wasn’t expecting all the sad parts!

Though the hardback has a cover price of £16.99 it is heavily discounted in lots of supermarkets and the paperback is out in early March - well worth your money, anyhow!