“Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus Premiering on Apple TV+ this Fall

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Nuala McHugh
Nuala McHughhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/nuala-mchugh-362a19169/
As a huge book lover, I am passionate about sharing wonderful stories and recommendations. I have a degree in English and a Master's degree in PR and Marketing so I have lots of experience analyzing literature. I've also read a ton of books in my lifetime and am always interested in new finds. Having spent five years working in various PR agencies, I am now a freelance writer with a special love for books and travel.
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The debut of the new Apple TV+ limited drama series, “Lessons in Chemistry” will hit the streaming service in October of 2023. The series is based on the award-winning New York Times Bestselling novel of the same name by author, science editor, and copywriter Bonnie Garmus. 

Academy Award winner Brie Larson (“Captain Marvel,” “Room”) is starring and executive producing the series.

The first two episodes will premiere on Friday, October 13, 2023.

Actress Brie Larson in a 1960s era kitchen

Set in the early 1950s, Lessons in Chemistry revolves around chemist Elizabeth Zott, a remarkable woman challenging societal norms. Amidst the male-dominated environment of the Hastings Research Institute, Elizabeth’s intellectual bravery catches the eye of Calvin Evans, a respected scientist admired by many in their field.

Elizabeth Zott emerges as a unique yet endearing protagonist — she’s serious, strong, and eloquent. Her journey takes an unexpected turn when she’s fired from her research job due to her unwed, pregnant status, leading her to become a single mother and the star of a cooking show, “Supper at Six.” Elizabeth, however, isn’t one to fake smiles or read cue cards; she remains unapologetically herself, creating a different kind of show intended by the producers.

While awaiting her return to the world of science, Elizabeth, tasked with teaching cooking tips to overlooked housewives, goes beyond the kitchen to educate them about the science of cooking and chemistry. This show quickly becomes a beam of light for housewives, inspiring them to be their true selves.

However, this defiance against the status quo doesn’t sit well with everyone, and the idea of equality threatens many of them.

Official Full Trailer | Lessons in Chemistry | Apple TV+

I discovered the novel before the hype, and, like many, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

The ambiguous title paired with the fluffy pink cover has been misleading to some disappointed readers, mistaking it for a light, romantic read. But Lessons in Chemistry is only momentarily about romantic love, and even then, their love is a kind of beautiful chemical reaction. Beneath its pink jacket, Garmus explores the trials and tribulations of a female professional navigating a misogynistic society.

Lessons in Chemistry (US cover)

Although Garmus’s debut novel addresses serious themes like sexism, grief, and injustice, she infuses the book with a cartoonish sense of fun, making it a unique, quirky read you won’t want to put down.

Garmus, a dedicated rower herself, weaves the sport into the story. Elizabeth becomes passionate about rowing through Calvin’s introduction, and thus, it becomes a noticeable theme throughout. Structured, technical, and bonded by a team, the sport can be likened to science. It is also a rarity to have the strength of a female in this sport, which makes for another sexist barrier Elizabeth tackles.

There are other interesting characters besides Elizabeth, including her dear neighbor Harriet, who relieves Elizabeth (and the reader) with her kindness and strength. Elizabeth’s daughter, Madeline, is another brainy prodigy in the book who has read most of Dickens before kindergarten. Madeline is an entertaining character but doesn’t steal too much of the limelight, so we see just the right amount of her quirky responses and intelligent insights.

The introduction of Six-Thirty, Elizabeth’s intelligent canine companion who can understand human words, adds a delightful touch of eccentricity. Garmus drew inspiration from her intelligent dog, Friday, to create this character.

Bonnie Garmus and her companion

Six-Thirty quickly becomes a favorite among readers. This was the first time I’ve ever seen a canine protagonist portrayed with so much authority; it was the best part of the book, in my opinion.

Some characters in the story may come across as excessively sexist, almost to the point of being unrealistic. However, Lessons in Chemistry doesn’t shy away from acknowledging this unrealism, perhaps as a nod to the absurdity and silliness of sexism.

While Elizabeth herself has no sense of humor, the collision of Elizabeth’s scientific rationalism with the conventional attitudes of those around her generates much of the story’s mood. Garmus explained that she wanted Elizabeth to endure hardship (sexual assault) but not let it define her; she wanted the novel to blend darkness with cheerfulness. Even as Elizabeth endures severe losses and challenges, the overall tone remains light.

There has been some criticism around the portrayal of feminism in this book. Elizabeth succeeds in the battle against society because she is not just a smart woman but rather an extraordinary woman. Perhaps an exploration of a more ordinary female chemist would have made the book more realistic.

However, Elizabeth’s unique character made the read entertaining, and her insistence that everything in life can be explained through chemistry was refreshing.

So, if you are looking for a more serious feminist book and show, it may be best to look elsewhere.

The Cast

According to Apple TV+, the “Lessons in Chemistry” series will star: Lewis Pullman (“Top Gun: Maverick,” “Outer Range”), NAACP Image Award winner Aja Naomi King (“How to Get Away with Murder,” “The Birth of a Nation”), Stephanie Koenig (“The Flight Attendant,” “The Offer”), Kevin Sussman (The Big Bang Theory,” “The Dropout”), Patrick Walker (“Gaslit,” “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey”), and Thomas Mann (“Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”).


Lessons in Chemistry is a captivating read that combines humor, resilience, and the struggle for change. It has been a hugely successful debut novel for Garmus, and with Apple TV+ releasing the series this fall, you’ll want to read it ASAP.

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