Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

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Vinegar Girl is part of the Hogarth Shakespear Project, the purpose of which is to take today’s novelists and have them write their modern takes on Shakespeare’s plays.   Vinegar  Girl is a modern retelling of one of my favorites, The Taming of the Shrew.

Kate is the daughter of a research scientist, who has spent his life immersed in his work barely lifting his head to acknowledge his daughters, Kate the eldest and Bunny the prettiest.  Kate lives a life of caretaking for her father and younger sister and working a dead end job that she doesn’t seem particularly well suited for after being asked to leave college.  Kate is intelligent, acerbic (hence the vinegar in the title), funny,  plain speaking and has no time for the social niceties that people expect her to observe.  After a confrontation of sorts with her father, who wants her to marry his research assistant in order to allow the assistant to stay in the country, Kate comes to the harsh realization that She. Has. No. Plan.  

The characters of Kate, Bunny and their father are well actualized.  Kate especially is excrutiatingly well drawn.  The character of Pyotr, the marriage minded assistant, falls flat to start with for me but comes into his own at the very end of the book.  This may actually have been purposeful, in order to keep the focus on Kate until the conclusion, I am not sure.  This was a very well done adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, funny, touching, and  thoughtful.  We all know people like Kate, who get bound up in the day to day of caretaking of others until life is just happening to them, rather than them making things happen.  It is lovely to see someone like that come out the other end okay, more than okay.

Shakespeare fan or not, a lovely, quick read about how to get what you want when you don’t even know what it is.

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