Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

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Lab Girl by Hope Jahren


 The Last Word Review


Incredibly open and frank memoir. The natural world through the eyes of a botanical scientist. Witty and an emotional read.


When I left school I had dreams of studying botany and to a degree it worked out for me and I would spend my days and nights studying plant life forms and I would study seeds of all shapes and sizes like an accountant studies figures. Today it still excites me as much as it did in my younger days.

I was delighted when Lab Girl by Hope Jahren landed on my desk as I just knew what would be between the covers.

Lab Girl is a beautiful memoir of a life destined to become a leading botanical scientist. Jahren spent her younger days at her father’s college laboratory in Minnesota the seeds for her future were sown during these days spent under the work benches playing as a child. Now Jahren has her own lab were she spends her days. A place she feels secure and is her place of worship.

Life growing up in Minnesota was never easy the Winters are long and hard and the home life was not happy and Jahren wanted more and her studies took her to UC Berkeley Ph.D. Jahren’s climb to where she is today being born out of determination to succeed, today she is an acclaimed geobiologist with a laboratory that is not only her own but one that is seen as one of the best in the world.

Bill is her loyal partner in her work and the stories of their adventures is something to behold and the scrapes they end up getting themselves into all in the name of science from the United States to Europe. Life was never like this in the early days as they struggled to obtain funding for the work she was so desperate to pursue. Jahren’s dedication to her work comes through every page and she admits to being completely single minded in her approach. She talks openly of her bipolar disorder but this is a memorable memoir full of humour and some of the most anecdotes that are found throughout the book, there was so many to select that it was difficult to choose just one for this review. One line that did stand out for me is ‘Science for war will always pay better that the science for knowledge.’ Apt in these days.

Lab Girl is a beautifully written and is witty and warm, every page was a pure joy and delight to read, it is informative and fascinating and every turn of the page as Jahren recounts the early days struggling to fund even the very basics of living to the workaholic lifestyle desperate to learn and understand.

Anyone who has an interest in the natural world will enjoy reading a fabulous memoir and will look at plants and the natural world through new eyes.

Hope Jahren’s Wikipedia page is worth reading. Here

My thanks to Fleet for a review copy of Lab Girl.

Lab Girl written by Hope Jahren and published by Fleet. Publication is 21 April 2016 and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshop.

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