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Non 1001 Book Review: Vinegar Girl Anne Tyler

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Next week we should be starting to post some of our Man Booker longlist book reviews so stay tuned for those. Our panel of judges is working hard to work their way through the list. Our contributor Kate predicted this book might make the longlist. Book worm happened to have read it and here is her review…

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
Published in: 2016
Reviewed by: Book Worm  and/or Jen
Rating: ★★★
Find it here: Vinegar Girl

Synopsis from Goodreads: Pulitzer Prize winner and American master Anne Tyler brings us an inspired, witty and irresistible contemporary take on one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies

Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work – her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner.

Dr. Battista has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he 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, all would be lost.

When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying – as usual – on 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 bring her around?

Book Worm’s Thoughts: Vinegar Girl is the latest installment in the Hogarth’s Shakespeare series and while it is technically well written and at points hilariously funny, the author’s contempt for the source material is clear from the outset.

The characters are nearly all stereotypical. You have the immigrant who doesn’t really grasp the language but loves popular sayings, the mad scientist who cares more about his work than his family, and the beautiful but dumb blonde daughter. The only one who is not stereotypical is Kate, the preschool teacher who hates children and doesn’t try to sugar coat any material she teaches. It is Kate’s dialogue and inner thoughts that give this book its humour.

Along with the characters, the story itself also fell flat for me. There was no spark between Kate and Pyotr and the idea that she would have gone through with the marriage after the everything that happened was beyond me.

While I enjoyed Kate’s witty one-liners and total disregard for convention, the rest of the book just felt like fluff. I think there was so much more that could have been achieved with this retelling.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: Vinegar Girl

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kristel #

    I have the book but haven’t read it yet. Too bad it fell flat.

    Like

    August 4, 2016
  2. Tracy S #

    If the author seems to dislike the play she’s retelling, and I’ve had trouble liking her style in the past, it sounds like a good one to pass on!

    Like

    August 4, 2016
  3. If she didn’t like the play why did she decide to write a novel which took that as an inspiration. An odd decision. I will pass on this one

    Like

    August 6, 2016
  4. Scott #

    Love Tyler and love this book. It was definitely her most plot-driven novel, which was surprisingly refreshing, and I thought she had a lot of fun with it. Most people are being too critical of Tyler letting her hair hang down.

    Like

    August 8, 2016
    • I’m glad to hear you liked the book. I’ve never really been that drawn to her books but I know they appeal to many and I’m glad to see your positive thoughts about her and this plbook in particular.

      Like

      August 8, 2016

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