“Lessons in Chemistry” Uses a Compelling Storytelling Formula

Photo credit: Amanda Kay Oaks

It’s hard to spend much time on the bookish internet without running into a little book called Lessons in Chemistry. This book is billed as being for fans of Where’d You Go Bernadette and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a comparison I can’t fully confirm since I’ve never watched the show. Lessons in Chemistry is set in the 1960s and follows scientist Elizabeth Zott, who winds up the host of an unconvenitial (and wildly popular) cooking TV show.

This is one of those books that is hard to categorize or compare, in my opinion. It has a unique voice and shifts perspectives between various characters, sometimes within the same chapter. This mode of storytelling works incredibly well and draws you in from the first page. Let’s get into the specifics of why this is one of my five-star reads of the year. 

(Full disclosure: This posts uses Bookshop.org affiliate links).

What I Liked

The narrative voice of Lessons in Chemistry, a close third person that shifts between characters throughout, is highly engaging. There is a wit and straightforwardness to the voice that makes this thick book imminently readable, and drew me in from the first page. For a book that is, overall, quietly sad and devastating, it also made me laugh a lot. 

The plot is also, in my opinion, fairly well done. There are enough twists and turns to keep things interesting, with enough clues on the page that you can generally work things out for yourself before the big reveal, which I find quite enjoyable. 

I adored pretty much all of the characters, who are all unconvential and don’t quite fit in. In paritcular, I loved the dog, Six-Thirty, and getting to see things from his perspective (even if I spent the entire book being stressed out that he might die on page). 

What I Didn’t Like

Aside from the aforementioned dog-related stress, it’s hard to pinpoint anything I didn’t like about this book. The ending was perhaps just a bit too fast, but I feel like I am always saying that these days, and honestly I really just wanted to spend more time with these characters to see how it all worked out for them. 

In all, you won’t hear me argue with the hype around Lessons in Chemistry. This is a delightful book that sits somewhere outside my typical genre of choice, and I am so glad I took the slight left turn to read it. 

I recommend Lessons in Chemistry to anyone who’s ever had an ambition thrwarted by forces bigger than themselves, who’s felt like they don’t quite belong, to all women everywhere, and to anyone who enjoys a read that will kind of break your heart but ultimately leave you hopeful in the end. 

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3 thoughts on ““Lessons in Chemistry” Uses a Compelling Storytelling Formula

  1. Great review! I’m with you about reading stories about animals – it can be so stressful! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I just loved Lessons in Chemistry and agree that it’s worth all the hype. The few negative reviews I’ve seen has mostly been about the many POV changes, but I agree with you and think it’s part of what makes this book special.

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