Thursday, June 23, 2016

Book Review, Vinegar Girl

Because Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler is a modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I’m so glad I picked it up because the novel is a delightful literary romantic-comedy. It tells the story of Kate, a feisty young woman, who’s too comfortable in her stalled life. So Fate intervenes in the form of Pyotr, a handsome, brilliant Russian biologist, who desperately needs a green card. (I nearly rolled my eyes at this trope, but it works.) Thankfully, Tyler does not take the easy way out with insta-love or a laissez-faire sure-I’ll-marry-him-faux-compassion. Instead, the characters grow. Kate realizes that her life has frozen and she desperately needs to change. And Pyotr is not a two-dimensional, alpha male archetype. Instead, the reader discovers he is a lonely, vulnerable man—albeit one with a tongue and temper as sharp as Kate’s. But like all rom-coms, they fall in love and get married. Or rather, vice versa.

The story is well told, and the pacing is excellent. In fact, I read the book in two days because I couldn’t put it down. The writing itself is clean, and Tyler’s prose is very witty—I read sentences aloud to whomever happened to be around me at the time (even to my 21 year old son, who’s an electrical engineer and not the most sympathetic audience). Further, Tyler nails the Russian accent and immigrant mindset, making Pyotr even more endearing.

I do need to add that I can’t really discuss how faithfully or innovatively this novel retells Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew because I haven’t read that play. But I can say that you don’t need to be familiar with the play to enjoy this book.

I heartily recommended Vinegar Girl. It’s a perfect summer beach read!

I received this book for Blogging for Book in exchange for a review.


  1. I love Anne Tyler, and can understand your hesitance about a retelling of this particular Shakespeare play, when Tyler isn't usually a comedy writer. My main entre into this play was a very hilarious episode of Moonlighting back in the 80s in which the characters perform a condensed (and more silly) version. So count me intrigued!

  2. That one sounds great. I was in Taming of the Shrew many, many years ago and it definitely holds a place in my heart.

  3. I also saw that episode of Moonlighting! Not exactly a cultural feast, but very daring for mainstream TV. Though they did subvert the play a little by keeping Maddie as a strong woman throughout.