Vinegar Girl is a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. In this version, we meet Kate Battista, who is in her late twenties, never married and taking care of her unappreciative widowed father and teenage sister. She’s discouraged with her life and doesn’t see things improving for herself any time soon. When her father approaches her with a ludicrous suggestion, Kate is angry and indignant. But a series of circumstances has Kate reconsidering Dr. Battista’s offer.
Vinegar Girl is a book that’s full of quirky characters that at first drew me in with their wacky behavior and oddball idiosyncrasies. It’s a fairly short read and the storyline was engaging for the most part. The author’s style of writing was compelling enough for me to breeze through the book quickly.
I had some trouble connecting with Kate’s character. She was far too wishy-washy for my taste. She allowed herself to be swayed this way and that, and I found myself wanting her to stand up for herself more. In contrast, Bunny, who is just fifteen and considered an “airhead”, had the backbone and guts to speak her mind throughout the book. As far as Dr. Battista went, there’s absentmindedness and forgetfulness, and then there’s selfishness and thoughtlessness. The doctor bordered on the latter in my opinion. Pyotr’s character (whose name troubled me throughout…I’m still not sure how it’s pronounced) started off as being charming and likable, but along the way he turned a nasty switch, which dropped my opinion of him several notches.
There was one passage where Kate gives an impromptu speech about how difficult it is to be a man. This just didn’t ring true to me. I found it fake and ridiculous. This was a woman who’d been pretty much ignored and unappreciated by men all her life and she’s suddenly compelled to come to their defense. There were a few times where Pyotr was downright rude to Kate, so I really could have done without her speech by then.
I think the reason for the abrupt character changes was because the book was shorter than it could have been. It didn’t give me a feeling that the characters were as developed as they might have been in a longer book. It felt rushed and the character development suffered because of it.
Having said all of this, I do have to say that Vinegar Girl was funny here and there, and I found myself laughing out loud a few times while reading. Anne Tyler is clearly a skilled storyteller, but I’d venture to say that this might not be one of her best works. Yet, I would still recommend giving it a try. It was a good way to pass a couple or so hours. Therefore, I’d give it a three and a half star rating.
3 1/2 of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton
eBook Review Gal received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.