Bonnie Garmus: Good Chemistry

Is there anybody out there who hasn’t read Lessons in Chemistry? Who hasn’t heard of Lessons in Chemistry? To say that Bonnie Garmus has had phenomenal success with her first novel is an understatement.

Winner of so many accolades as Best Book of the Year from so many publications and literary festivals worldwide this must be one of the best read novels in the past year.

Even more remarkable is that Bonnie Garmus is a first time published writer in her 60s, having finally broken through after 97 rejections for her first novel. She is a charming, affable woman who delighted the packed audience on the first day of the Edinburgh Book Festival in an interview with Sam Baker. She had a tip for those who don’t want 97 rejection slips – don’t write a novel of 700 words. As she told us, such a book from an unknown will never be read by any editor. The pile of submissions is too long for anyone to invest time in such a Magnus Opus.

Delighted fans of Life in Chemistry learnt that it has been commissioned remarkably quickly as a series and will appear on our tv screens in October, with Bree Larson playing the ever resilient heroine Elizabeth Zott. The book owes its success to the character of Elizabeth Zott, a 50s woman with a first class intellect, a thick skin, and a can-do attitude. Not for her the housewifely virtues of the era, the sparkling home and the well-pampered husband. A top class, innovative chemist, she had a career to attend to in spite of the male dorks and obstacles all around her. As a chemist, though, she could really cook, mainly by applying her chemical knowledge to the interaction of ingredients, and as a by-line ran an immensely popular to cookery show.

Bonnie Garmus had us enthralled with her story as how she came to write the novel. She observed the lives of her mother’s generation, and her own, and with a certain impatience for those who bemoan instead of act, used lots of humour and keen observation to indicate a way forward.

Edinburgh International Book Festival 2023

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