Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
When she’s sacked from her job at a research institute, she builds a lab in her kitchen at home. But money is tight and her daughter – child of her deceased lover – is growing. When she’s offered the chance to front an afternoon TV cooking show, she reluctantly agrees.
Her male producer has hired her because she’s physically attractive, and a damn good cook. But Elizabeth seizes the opportunity to teach stay-at-home women about chemistry and to think for themselves.
This is a lovely satire about misogyny and other irrational ways society is structured. How much has really changed?
Daughters Beyond Command by Véronique Olmi
translated by Alison Anderson
The three Malvieri sisters have very different childhoods, despite their shared parentage. The eldest, Sabine, escapes to Paris as soon as she is able to try to make her way as an actress and absorb the bohemian scene. The middle child, Hélène, is in the curious position of having been informally adopted by her wealthy aunt and uncle, spending every holiday with them near Paris since the age of three. Mariette, short and asthmatic and several years younger than the other two, becomes her mother’s confidante with her sisters leave the family home.
As in most families, there are secrets, and Mariette doesn’t seem particularly burdened by the knowledge of one that could rip her parents’ marriage to shreds. But, having sworn till death us do part, it would take a lot for Bruno, the staunchly conservative patriarch, to turn his back on his family.
I wondered if this were an autobiographical novel, as the author, an acclaimed dramatist, might be an older Sabine. It’s very different to her debut novella, Beside the Sea, which I read and loved around the time it was published in translation in 2010. Although I enjoyed, Daughters Beyond Command, it didn’t seem as deep, and certainly wasn’t as concise, as her earlier work. Thanks to publishers Europa editions for my review copy.
My own short collection of stories about daughters is free to my newsletter subscribers in e-book form and I’ve just made the paperback available for purchase.