by Anne Tyler
Hogarth, 2016. 240 pgs. Fiction
In this modernized retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Kate Battista lives her life largely as her scientist father dictates. In accordance with his instructions, she makes nutritious but tasteless meals for the family, cares for the house, and tries to reign in her rebellious teenage sister. Her lack of tact has created problems for her at school, at work, and with friends, and she now struggles to keep her job as a preschool assistant while she lives at home. Though not happy, Kate never examines her life too closely until her father asks her to marry his laboratory assistant, whose work visa will soon expire.
There is a lot to like about Vinegar Girl. This was my first Anne Tyler read, and I fell head over heels in love with her voice. Her critically acclaimed career has been built on her wry observations about everyday people, and I often found her writing laugh out loud funny. Kate was an unusual protagonist for a novel, since she’s not especially self-aware or introspective, but I enjoyed the novelty of her character. I also felt like Tyler reimagined The Taming of the Shrew’s plot, a difficult story to modernize, in an ingenious way.
I wanted a little more of something from this short novel, but I’m not sure in the slightest what it is. More complexity? More character development? I really don’t know. Maybe I just wish it were longer so I could keep on reading.