Two summer reads, both debut novels, and both 5* for Annabel

I do not get much time to read however when I have a really good book it makes me find the time. So these book reviews are for two that I really enjoyed. They are completely different but certainly, the storyline of the first one, Lessons in Chemistry, is most unusual. The second book review, The Paper Palace is a love triangle – a missed opportunity? Read on to find out more about these excellent summer reads…

LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY by BONNIE GARMUS

Meet Elizabeth Zott: scientist by training, cookIng show host by default. One meal at a time, she galvanizes her audience to question the lives they’ve been served

As the novel opens in 1961, Elizabeth is a 30-year-old single mother to an illegitimate daughter, rowing enthusiast, on-the-record atheist and the reluctant, “permanently depressed” star of a cooking show for housewives called Supper at Six. Here, scientific theory becomes sparkling, sprightly entertainment.

By training, Elizabeth is a research chemist, though her academic career has foundered despite her obvious talent, and as the narrative jumps back 10 years we understand why. Female scientists are viewed with suspicion by their male colleagues; from her earliest undergraduate days, Elizabeth has been subject to attacks on her reputation and her person, from the major – sexual assault and theft of her work – to the casual everyday misogyny meted out by people, including other women, who see her independence and single-mindedness as a threat. Even when she finds her soulmate, Nobel-nominated chemist Calvin Evans, their happiness is a further spur to jealous rivals and doomed not to last.

The story jumps backwards and forwards and includes narration from a dog which may not appeal to all but I found it endearing and I took it as her inner soul speaking. It shows pioneering women fighting to prove themselves in traditionally male arenas in the years – late 50s and early 60s – and the fight is still going on some 60 years later.

This debut novel from Bonnie Garmus is irresistible, big-hearted, poignant and laugh-out-loud funny and is coming to television soon.

THE PAPER PALACE by MIRANDA COWLEY-HELLER

Set in Cape Cod this story revolves around one day in the life of Elle Bishop.

Elle sets out for a swim in her favourite lake, below her family’s summer house, The Paper Palace, and then the past 50 years of her life start to unravel. She is recovering from a gathering the night before when she has a passionate encounter with the love of her life.

The whole family holiday scenario reminded me so much of my own family’s holidays in South Cornwall and the matriarch, Elle’s mother, is a definite Maggie Smith style woman. She says what she thinks with no holds barred and is also a bit flirtatious with Elle’s husband.

There are no villains in this book just a love triangle with an impossible dilemma for Elle. As the reader, you become completely invested in this story. The expression, a page-turner, is overused in my opinion however, I have to admit to devouring this book over one grey, wet weekend.

Another debut novel but interestingly it is a real ‘marmite’ of a book and has very mixed reviews on Amazon. All I can say is I really enjoyed it and I imagine it will be on many beach holiday reading lists.

More summer reads book reviews here