This delightful little story was gifted to me by a colleague for my birthday, with the promise that ‘it’s not a chemistry textbook’. Too right! Rather, it’s the tale of Chemist Elizabeth Zott – a fiercely intelligent woman who is up against it in the 1960s, trying to be taken seriously as a chemist despite her gender. She is belittled, bullied, and outright assaulted… yet never waivers in her devotion to science or her resolve to make her mark.
It is during her tenure at Hastings, a research laboratory where she is scarcely respected, that she meets Calvin Evans. He’s just as brilliant as Zott, but with the added benefit of having a penis so, naturally, has been nominated for a Nobel prize or two. The two Chemists fall madly in love and move in together, never once entertaining the thought of marriage or children. It was quite the scandal! Soon enough, they acquire a dog (Six Thirty, and possibly my favourite literary character ever) and life seems pretty perfect. They row together, support each other’s workplace accomplishments, and satisfy other more carnal needs.
But bliss is not meant to last for Zott.
The story that unfolds from tragedy is beautifully told, funny, and heartwarming. The ‘lessons in chemistry’ eventually come via Zott’s very own cooking show, which I dearly wish was real! Through her show, she unwittingly becomes the feminist icon that she was always destined to be. She even wears pants! On TELEVISION!
Zott is everything. Straight talking and sensible and intelligent and resilient and just so damned smart. I loved this book. I loved the dog. I’m probably making it sound very twee and Wes Anderson-y. It’s not. It’s just a damned fine little book.
5 beaker-brewed coffees out of 5.