Book Review: “Vinegar Girl” by Anne Tyler

Vinegar Girl by Anny Tyler

In this latest novel, prolific Anne Tyler has a bit of fun with this contemporary take on William Shakespeare.

Kate is unmarried but not especially worried about that fact. She lives her life, and feels no need for a man or the approval of other people.  On the other hand, she has a pretty restricted and grey life,  which is going no where. Kate admits the truth of the observation that “She has. No. Plan.”

Into this cramped existence, her dotty and demanding father throws a monkey wrench, in the form of his lab assistant Pyotr. Pyotr’s visa is running out, so why doesn’t Kate marry him so he can stay in the country? What? How could a father ask such a thing?  How can he think so little of her?

In the end, Kate goes along with this bumbling and outrageous plan, but only to help her father. And only for a sham marriage that will not change her life in any real way.  That’s the plan, anyway.

As in Shakespeare’s original, the courtship is messy, and in the process Kate is propelled by events into a new life. We aren’t surprised that despite the fact that it is all fake, Kate discovers some real affection for Pyotr.

She also finds that people see her differently, and treat her differently. Suddenly, they seem to see here as more real. At the same time, Kate begins to see other people differently, and to understand a lot more about her father, sister, and others around her. And, miraculously, Kate begins to feel a desire for change in her own life, for her own sake.

Taming of the Shrew isn’t my favorite WS play, so I’m just as happy that Tyler did not feel any need to hew closely to all the details of the inspiration. Kate doesn’t throw slapstick tantrums (even when she might be justified), her father is more oblivious than mean, and Pyotr doesn’t seem to want to “tame” her so much as to have her like him.

I like Tyler’s version better.

This is a nice summer read, light and fun.

I haven’t read much of Tyler, but this one certainly makes me willing to try more.

  1. Anne Tyler, Vinegar Girl, New York, Hogarth Shakespeare, 2016.


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