Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
Published by Hogarth in 2016
My copy: Library
After years out in the academic wilderness, Dr Battista is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There’s only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr…
When Dr Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying – as usual – on his daughter Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he’s really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to win her round?
Anne Tyler’s retelling of The Taming of the Shrew asks whether a thoroughly modern, independent woman like Kate would ever sacrifice herself for a man. The answer is as individual, off-beat and funny as Kate herself.
I was surprised when I spotted this in the library as I consider myself to be a bit of an Anne Tyler fan, yet I’d never heard of this book, even though it has just been published. A bit of research informed me that this is part of a project to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, in which eight well known writers re-imagine a Shakespeare play for the 21st century. You can read more about the project here. This is Anne Tyler’s reworking of The Taming of the Shrew.
This isn’t a play I’m familiar with, so I just enjoyed this novel on its own merits. In many ways it is typical Tyler – focusing on a dysfunctional bunch of characters – but it did feel fresher and more modern than some of her other novels. I loved the main character of Kate, who is frustrating yet lovable, and her mad scientist father Louis.
Into the mix comes Pyotr, who is another really sweet character, who I couldn’t help but like. We follow this motley crew through an unlikely courtship – but will love win out in the end?
This was a quick and easy read – and I thought it was a really sweet story overall! It isn’t as brilliant as some of Tyler’s other novels, but in the main I really enjoyed it.