Vinegar Girl [Anne Tyler]

Source: Brooklyn Public Library ebook.

Start Date: 2019-08-04

Finish Date: 2019-08-10

Goodreads link.


  • I found out about this book when Hamsini on my Goodreads feed had completed it and given it a four star review; and enthusiastically took it up myself. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to that four star billing for me.
  • Side note: I had known from the news about Margaret Atwood doing a retelling of the Tempest that something called Hogarth Shakespeare existed, but had never made the effort to go and check out the series. Vinegar Girl made me realise that there are eight such retellings already. That is quite a solid outcome of a book that was just… okay.
  • For such a short book it took a really long time to read – I took three to four days to get past the first half, which at the time I found annoying for some reason. The second half went much easier, and I would have finished it in one sitting if not for myself stopping in between to focus on household chores. It was that sort of week.
  • After completing it, I was able to articulate my problems with it better. The first is that it seems to be unrealistic and sloppy. The ‘marry for a green card’ plot device is, I’m sure, more literary / a romcom staple than a real life deal; and I found the Russian accent and speaking style more stereotype than genuine. Now, maybe it was meant to be deliberately unrealistic and drawing upon existing tropes to mimic or homage Shakespeare – but if it was, I missed it completely and it didn’t work for me. Plus, even if Anne Tyler was trying to go for deliberately unrealistic comedy, couldn’t she have done better than work with tropes that have become thoroughly cliched by now?
  • Another thing which I realised right at the end is that it also stereotypes Dr Battista and Pyotr as eccentric scientists in a way that would make science Twitter cringe – this is The Big Bang Theory version of scientists – social misfits, unconcerned with life beyond the lab.
  • Even the Kate’s speech seemed as though it was a precis writing exercise of either a feminist blog’s post on masculinity, or, even worse, a men’s rights rant on the obligations of masculinity. (Horseshoe theory!)
  • As modern adaptations go, I liked 10 Things I Hate About You much, much better. But some amount of discounting for Julia Stiles’ curly hair and the Can’t take my eyes off of you scene should probably be applied.
  • This also got me exploring other Shrew adaptations, and the Wikipedia page revealed that there is a controversy about which came first, A Shrew or The Shrew; and also that there is an African-American Shrew movie, a Shrew porno, multiple Shrew operas; and multiple Indian language adaptations – at least, official ones, considering that most of the 80s and 90s had Bollywood unironically taming shrews. Which was that Sridevi movie where she owns her business and a slap later, ends up being a housewife? Oh, Laadla.


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