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No one does family like Anne Tyler does family. Are the Battistas her most uniquely appealing yet?
‘You can't get around Kate Battista as easily as all that'
Kate Battista is feeling 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 the adults 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…
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 win her round?
Anne Tyler's retelling of The Taming of the Shrew asks whether a thoroughly modern, independent woman like Kate would ever sacrifice herself for a man. The answer is as individual, off-beat and funny as Kate herself.
Review by Anastasia Hadjidemetri
What do you do when you don't like a book? Do you close it with a decisive thump, and resolve to never read works from that author again? I certainly do. Then I might use the book as a door stopper, foot stool or even as a seat booster. (Yellow Pages are hard to come by these days.)
But what do you do if you don't like a book ... and you're a celebrated writer? You re-write the whole book, obviously. Wait...what?
That's what Anne Tyler has done. Confessing that she finds Shakespeare's plots terrible, and declaring Taming of the Shrew particularly outlandish, she set out to make the story more believable. To tone done the exaggerations.
So what do we have as a result?
Vinegar Girl, Anne Tyler's brilliant new novel. It's a love story. Not your average love story, though. It's funny. And it's witty. Our heroine is a sassy sourpuss, who was 'invited to leave college' for telling her botany professor that his explanation of photosynthesis was half-assed. She has no patience for small children but has a love of beef jerky. Chomp chomp.
Our hero is a brainy scientist, with a heavy foreign accent who has a proclivity for dishing out catchy (ahem) proverbs from his country. And an obsession with bananas. I shall refrain from making phallic references here.
Vinegar Girl is a modern rom-com. Whilst nobody gets naked and there are no references to throbbing members or bulging muscles, there's plenty of heat. Think: when fire meets gasoline.
So why bother with Vinegar Girl? Because Shakespeare is hard. And time-consuming. And no one has time to pour over SparkNotes anymore. If nothing else, the cover is beau-ti-ful. Never shall it become a door stopper. Or a foot stool. Or seat booster. I might even re-read it again now. Bye.
About the Author
Anne Tyler is the author of twenty bestselling novels. Her most recent, A Spool of Blue Thread, was a Sunday Times bestseller and shortlisted for both the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction and the Man Booker Prize. She has won the Pulitzer Prize and the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence, which recognises a lifetime's achievement in books, as well as being nominated by Roddy Doyle and Nick Hornby as 'the greatest novelist writing in English'.
Vinegar Girl sees Anne Tyler going behind the scenes of one of Shakespeare's most controversial yet enduring (Kiss Me Kate, 10 Things I Hate About You) plays: 'You know how sometimes a friend will tell you something that happened to her, and you think wait, there must be more to it than that, I'm sure there's another side to this. Well, that's how I've always felt about The Taming of the Shrew.'
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Comments about Vinegar Girl : The Taming of the Shrew Retold:
This is a great adaption of the Taming of the Shrew by Anne Tyler. Easy to read and keeps you wanting to keep reading. Perhaps the story does not have the depth of some of her earlier novels but still manages to engage the reader.
"It's knockabout comedy at its best, genuinely laugh-out-loud funny and, indeed, may be her funniest book to date" -- John Harding * Daily Mail * "The worst wedding in history ... vintage Anne Tyler" -- Ann Treneman * The Times * "It's every subtle shade of funny, heart-breaking and ultimately life-affirming" * Grazia * "Funny, thought-provoking, essential" * The Sunday Telegraph (Stella) * "Delightful, ingenious and convincing... Anyone who values good writing and the intelligent observation and depiction of how people feel, think and speak will enjoy it too" -- Allan Massie * Scotsman *
Series: Hogarth Shakespeare
Number Of Pages: 240
Published: 27th June 2016
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 21.6 x 13.5 x 1.9
Weight (kg): 0.25