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BOOK BITES | Bonnie Garmus, Claire Kohda, Joanna Nell

05 June 2022 - 08:28 By JENNIFER PLATT, Mila de Villiers and Tiah Beautement

This week we feature a delightful book about love, cooking and chemistry; a vampire novel with a difference - and too much Facebooking; plus a warm-hearted comfort read about three women who get together to fight evil capitalist forces who are threatening their safe space in a hospital cafeteria

by Bonnie Garmus.
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.
Image: Supplied

Lessons in Chemistry ★★★★★
Bonnie Garmus

We meet Elizabeth Zott in the late 1950s and early '60s living in a little town in California. She is a chemist. Not a female chemist. Just a chemist. Working at the Hasting Research Unit, she barges into the lab of Calvin Evans — a distinguished scientist. They fall in love. Calvin is the only person/man that treats Elizabeth as his equal. We flash back and forth to their childhoods before they meet as well as Elizabeth’s life where she is now mother of the smartest (obviously) four-year-old named Madeline and star of a show called Supper At Six. “Cooking is chemistry. And chemistry is life. Your ability to change everything — including yourself — starts here.” This is a delightful, hilarious and superb debut from Garmus, with memorable characters. — Jennifer Platt



Click here to buy Lessons in Chemistry 

by Claire Kohda.
Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda.
Image: Supplied

Woman, Eating ★★★
Claire Kohda
Virago Press

“Lydia is hungry'' reads the first sentence of the blurb of Kohda’s debut novel. A relatable statement, one would think. Not quite ... What this performance art graduate in her early 20s craves is blood — fresh pigs’ blood to be precise. For Lydia “Lyd” Kobayashi is half-vampire/half-human. Turned by her Malaysian vampire mother shortly after her birth, Lyd has to navigate a world in which she constantly has to hide her true self: from her sole childhood friend to the fellow artists at the gallery where she interns. Her existence is a lonely one. Kohda explores identity, belonging, and the perils of being a woman in a contemporary society throughout this easily digestible book, yet Lyd’s incessant Sturm und Drang concerning her ipseity eventually becomes bloody soul-sucking. Neither Angela Carter nor Stephenie Meyer, Woman, Eating is an admirable attempt at destabilising the vampire trope, but the whiny, repetitive protagonist (who spends far too much time on Facebook, IMHO) doth not for riveting reading maketh. That said, Kohda’s novel could definitely be read as a masterclass on how to track down fresh pigs’ blood in London. (Spoiler alert: it ain’t easy). — Mila de Villiers

Click here to buy Woman, Eating

by Joanna Nell.
The Tea Ladies of St Jude's Hospital by Joanna Nell.
Image: Supplied

The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital ★★★
Joanna Nell
Hodder & Stoughton

Sometimes you just need a comfort read of eclectic characters whose small cause takes on their local goliath. Nell's latest is precisely that. Hilary is the 70-something volunteer manager of the St Jude's cafeteria with strict standards and a chin up. Joy is volunteering in an attempt to put her life back together after her husband's prolonged battle with cancer. Chloe is a teen volunteer whose good service will help her get into medical school. These three very different women don't have much in common but they team up to fight back when capitalist bureaucrats come for the cafeteria, threatening to destroy the soul of the hospital. — Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie



Click here to buy The Tea Ladies of St Jude's Hospital