Book review: Vinegar Girl, Anne Tyler

By Demelza Jones

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Writer Anne Tyler.
Writer Anne Tyler.

This is The Taming of the Shrew retold for more modern times when contemporary women might not be so willing to make sacrifices for a man.

For those unfamiliar with Shakespeare's romantic comedy, it's the story of outspoken Katherina, who's being pursued by Petruchio, who "tames" her until she becomes a willing bride (yes, the play's more misogynistic elements have been well debated, discussed and picked over). Because Katherina agrees to marry, it means her younger sister, the far more compliant Bianca, can also wed.

Vinegar Girl gets rid of some of the more troubling aspects of the original and adds a modern Green Card twist to the tale. Kate Battista, feeling stuck in a proverbial rut, is outraged when her scientist father decides she should marry his talented laboratory assistant, Pyotr, who is facing deportation just as they're on the brink of a major scientific discovery.

Kate is furious that her father would even ask this of her, not knowing Pyotr but realising the impending marriage will only keep her father working round the clock.

We learn early that Kate isn't a shrew and I enjoyed her quick-witted and offbeat humour:

"Hi Kate! We went to get marriage licence!"

"Who's we?"

"Your father and I."

"Well, I hope you'll be very happy together."

It makes for an easy and relaxing read, but while I liked the book, I didn't love it. It felt too short - a couple of Shakespearean-style subplots wouldn't have gone amiss - and possibly because I read a lot, it was easy to put the book down and feel a sense of indifference.

That said, it's an easy weekend read and the cover is beautiful!

by Anne Tyler
(Penguin Random House, $34)

- Weekend magazine

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