#220 ~ Chemistry for Beginners

Cover of Chemistry for Beginners

Chemistry for Beginners by Anthony Strong

Dr. Steven J. Fisher is an intelligent biochemist, working for Oxford University.  His previous work with bonobo apes brought him to where he is today – studying the female orgasm in hopes of finding a cure for female sexual dysfunction.  While Dr. Fisher is brilliant about things the size of molecules, he is your stereotypical scientist.  He is nerdy and unable to pick up on the dynamics between men and women.  When his lab takes on Ms. G., a final subject for their testing of his chemical breakthrough, KXC97, Dr. Fisher finds himself attracted to her and he doesn’t know why.  In desperation to keep her as part of the stud, he agrees to teach her chemistry.  All the while, this scientist who notices every nuance of what happens beneath a microscope, misses all of the drama surrounding him in the lab.  It takes a major biochemical breakdown for him to see his world for what it is.

Say-AnythingI doubt I’ll ever be able to hear the word biochemistry without thinking of Diane Court from the movie “Say Anything”.  The way that the school principal annunciates “b-i-o-chemistry” during her introduction at graduation cracks me up.  It’s as if he cannot believe that of someone from his high school.  In many ways, Ms. G reminded me of Diane Court as a graduate student – if she hadn’t found Lloyd Dobler in high school.  She is an attractive and intelligent woman who is tired of being someone’s trophy and wants to be on equal footing with her partner.  She isn’t interested in sex, but perhaps that is because her English professor boyfriend has definite expectations of what she will like and how she will enjoy it.  She turns to Dr. Fisher’s study because her boyfriend threatened her if she didn’t.  I found it interesting how she found her passion in all possible ways as a result.

I very much enjoyed Chemistry for Beginners.  I connected with both of the main characters and the way that the story was told in the form of a scientific  paper.  There were a few things that didn’t work for me, though.  There are sections of the novel that are compilations of email and I found the repetition of the email addresses and signatures irritating.  Although the novel isn’t long, there was a point where it felt long.  I can’t remember the exact point where I began to feel that way, but it was after Ms. G began studying with Dr. Fisher and his team.  The novel definitely picked up again once there was competition for her affection.  These things were not so bothersome that I didn’t like the novel.  Far from it.  They do keep me from giving my highest recommendation.

This  is the first novel I purchased because of the narrator, Simon Vance.  I have loved him from Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, so when I found myself with an Audible credit to spare, I searched on books that Vance narrated.  This was one of the more recent novels.  I did not go wrong.  Chemistry for Beginners is a great farce.  There were more times than I counted that I laughed out loud.  In particular, the scenes where Dr. Fisher believes he is paying an actual Ph.D. for “clinically proven” ways to get a woman in bed were some of the funniest I’ve read in a long time.  Anthony Strong has written an entertaining love story about nerds, for everyone.  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good laugh and isn’t squeamish about the workings of sexual biology from a clinical standpoint with a vibrating apparatus or two added to the mix.


I purchased this novel from Audible.com.

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  • At 2009.12.15 10:44, Sandy said:

    Oh, Simon Vance is THE BOMB. I’d rent an audio just to hear him, sure. And the book sounds interesting, sure. But I’m having a really hard time getting past the picture of Lloyd. I love Lloyd. I didn’t have one of those in high school. Nobody serenaded me with Peter Gabriel anyway. Perhaps I’m hormonal today, but I think I just need to go clean something and think about him for awhile.

    • At 2009.12.15 10:47, rhapsodyinbooks said:

      This sounds very cute. I think if one were reading this book instead of listening, the email addresses wouldn’t have been a factor. I’ve had that happen with listening too. Did you see by the way that Simon Vance was among those listed by The Washington Post for best audiobooks of the year for The Girl Who Played With Fire?


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      • At 2009.12.15 15:30, Amy Reads Good Books said:

        Great review. . .love the “Say Anything” reference.

        • At 2009.12.15 20:07, Belle said:

          Looks like I have another good narrator to add to my list. This one sounds like a fun listen! I can see, though, how in an audiobook, a repeat of the email header information can be a bit irritating.

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          • At 2009.12.15 20:23, Jennifer said:

            It is true that email headers and footers aren’t as irritating in print. You can skip over them nearly unnoticed. It really was just a minor irritation for the most part.

            Simon Vance is the bomb! I’m so glad he got mentioned in the Washington Post. Well deserved!

            • At 2010.02.09 10:26, Juju said:

              Ahhhh Lloyd Dobbler!

              • […] his other work, in this performance he reached the toppermost of the poppermost. Even though Chemistry for Beginners had some humorous moments, I really didn’t know just how well suited he is for comedy. His […]

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