Vinegar Girl: A Novel

Vinegar Girl: A Novel

by Anne Tyler


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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?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804141284
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 03/28/2017
Series: Hogarth Shakespeare Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 96,971
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Anne Tyler is the author of twenty bestselling novels. She was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated at nineteen from Duke University and went on to do graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University. A Spool of Blue Thread, Anne Tyler’s New York Times bestselling twentieth novel, was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize; her eleventh novel, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

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 how know 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."


Baltimore, Maryland

Date of Birth:

October 25, 1941

Place of Birth:

Minneapolis, Minnesota


B.A., Duke University, 1961

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Excerpted from "Vinegar Girl"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Anne Tyler.
Excerpted by permission of Crown/Archetype.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

In order to provide reading groups with the most informed and thought-provoking questions possible, it is necessary to reveal certain aspects of the story in this novel. If you have not finished reading Vinegar Girl, we respectfully suggest that you do so before reviewing this guide.

1. Compare and contrast Tyler’s Vinegar Girl with Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.

2. Do you think Tyler’s Kate was less of a “shrew” than Shakespeare’s Katherine?

3. Discuss Kate and Pyotr’s first meeting. Did you think there was a connection or chemistry there from the beginning?

4. Did you like how Tyler transformed the misogynistic Petruchio to the quirky Pyotr? Do you think he was a good match for her sarcastic Kate?

5. Kate is unsatisfied with her life at home and at work, but has done nothing to change her situation. Do you think her father strong suggestion to marry Pyotr was actually what she needed to change her life?

6. Discuss the character of Bunny and the role she plays in Kate’s life.

7. Tyler is a master writer when it comes to depicting family relationships. Discuss the family dynamic in Vinegar Girl. Do you think all families struggle with the balance of acting selfishly and selflessly?

8. Were you surprised when Kate was so upset when Pyotr does not show up to the church on time?

9. Discuss Kate’s speech at the end of the novel. Do you agree with her?

10. What was your reaction to the story’s Epilogue? Is that how you imagined Kates’ life to turn out?

Customer Reviews

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Vinegar Girl (Hogarth Shakespeare) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
[I received this book free from the publisher through NetGalley. I thank them for their generousity. In exchange, I was simply asked to write an honest review, and post it. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising] “Wait!” she wanted to tell them. “Don’t you think I’m worth more than this? I shouldn’t have to go through with this! I deserve to have a real romance, someone who loves me for myself and thinks I’m a treasure. Someone who showers me with flowers and handwritten poems and dream catchers.” Kate Battista, oldest child of Dr. Louis Battista and sister of Bernice ( Bunny), had lived with and kept house for them ever since her mother had died. It was what was expected, it was her life after leaving college. She may not have liked it, but she accepted it because she felt she'd had no choice. She worked at the pre-school nearby, and tried to subdue her own thoughts even though they often rose unbidden, and was afraid her job was in danger all the time because of it. And then her father's lab assitant, Pyotr, runs into trouble. His visa is about to expire. Dr. Battista has a wonderful idea! Kate will marry Pyotr and nothing will change. They will let Pyotr live with them, of course seperate from Kate, and thing will not change. After all, Kate will do what's asked, what's expected, without....much....complaining. Pyotr, however, has other ideas. He and "Katya" will live in his apartment and they will have their own life. However,....has anyone even thought to ask Kate? When she agrees, then things start to change..... Anyone who hasn't read "Taming of the Shrew" and/ or seen the movie "Kiss Me Kate" really ought to. In THIS book, Anne Tyler has taken the story and retold it to fit today. It is set in Baltimore, but truely echos the original in scope and personality. I really loved it! I have not been as excited about a series since Jan Karon's books. Hogarth Press has taken on a task in find authors to tackle Shakespeare, and so far, both in Vinegar Girl and Shylock is my Name, they are suceeding mightly! Bravo Hogarth, and Brava Anne Tyler!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I must confess to having read ALL Anne Tykers books; and yes i have enjoyed them all
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anne Tyler's true art is in her ability to place the reader in the same room with her characters. You feel their anxiety just as acutely as you feel their happiness. I flew through this story in a flash and, as always, feel the loss of my newest family.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
“She had always been such a handful – a thorny child, a sullen teenager, a failure as a college student. What was to be done with her? But now they had the answer: marry her off. They would never give her another moment’s thought” Vinegar Girl is the twenty-first novel by American author, Anne Tyler, and is written under the Hogarth Shakespeare banner. It is billed as William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew retold. At twenty-nine, Kate Battista is in a dead-end job she doesn’t particularly like, and saddled with looking after her air-head fifteen-year-old sister and her workaholic father. Kate is no shrinking violet though: she lets them know what irritates her in no uncertain terms. Her boss suggests she practice restraint but: “The unsatisfying thing about practicing restraint was that nobody knew you were practicing it” So when Dr Louis Battista suggests she marry Pyotr Shcherbakov, his brilliant research assistant, whose O-1 visa is about to run out, she lets her father know how she feels: “We are not in another culture, and this is not an arranged marriage. This is human trafficking….You’re sending me to live with a stranger, sleep with a stranger, just for your own personal gain” Pyotr tries to court Kate, despite her irritability, her rudeness and her flat refusal to help. And despite the gross insult she perceives at the suggestion, his enthusiasm, his lack of guile and his straight talking begins to weaken her resolve “…they say you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” she tells him. “Yes, they would,” Pyotr said, mysteriously. “But why would you want to catch flies, hah? Answer me that, vinegar girl” Anne Tyler’s version of this classic Shakespeare tale is an absolute delight. Her characters are ordinary people with flaws and believable quirks; their dialogue is just as ordinary and everyday; and yet, they are endearing, each in their own way. Her descriptive prose is marvellous: “an unhealthy-looking young man with patchy beige chin whiskers that reminded Kate of lichen”. And the tale is filled with humour: the reader will find themselves smiling, chuckling and (at least at the wedding ceremony) laughing out loud. Witty and funny.
litpixie More than 1 year ago
Throughout literature there are stories about difficult women. A few authors are taking those stories and retelling them, giving a fuller picture of what made these women become difficult. Vinegar Girls tells one of those stories, Katherine the Shrew from Taming of the Shrew. Like the Shakespeare story Katherine lives with her father and younger sister. This Katherine has had to grow up quickly, taking her late mother's role within the family and help raise her younger sister. Tyler explores what it's like to grow up in that household and that shapes Kate's personality. If I had one problem with the book is that it ended a bit quickly. I wanted to see how Kate and Pyotr moved from a marriage of convenience to a marriage of love.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's been my pleasure to have read each and every one of Ann Tyler's novels and I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite ! This little book is a joy--- Shakespeare must be smiling !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once again, Ms. Tyler does not disappoint. A nice easy read with charming characters, a nod to Shakespeare. I enjoyed it very much and read it in one session.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful version of a classic
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cute story with a believable ending. The moral i believe is be yourself and let others to who they are too. Glad i read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anne Tyler writes a take-off on "Taming of the Shrew," commissioned by the Hogarth Shakespeare project, as only she can. Her signature quirky characters make this story rise above the original plot's misogyny. Kate is an awkward, single 30-year old who lives with her scientist father and teenage sister. Kate has been in charge of the household since their mother died when the girls were children. She is acerbic, direct, and non-social. At her work in a pre-school, she is often reprimanded for her remarks to parents. She is afraid of losing her job, but she has no plan B, and drifts directionlessly letting things happen to her. Enter her father's lab assistant, Pyotr (which everyone consistently mispronounces), whose visa is running out. Kate's father arranges for Kate and Pyotr to marry to keep Pyotr in the country and assisting his project. While Kate is not taken with Pyotr, who is at least as socially awkward as she, she concedes to the plan after some objection. She explains to her sister that this will get her out of her father's house and offer her more options than her current life. Spoiler alert: Though the plan was to marry "on paper only," the Epilogue reveals that the marriage sticks and they have a son. Other Epilogue details also reveal that not much else has changed. I enjoyed this book and at times laughed out loud. My favorite quote: "The unsatisfying thing about practicing restraint was that nobody knew you were practicing it."
sandrabrazier More than 1 year ago
Kate Battista is not exactly thrilled with her life. She takes care of her forgetful father, a preoccupied research immunologist, and her sister, a teenage girl who thinks of little besides boys. She also takes care of their home and does all of the chores. In addition, she works as an assistant teacher with four-year-olds, but even that is not going at all well. Her father relies on her too much. But when he asks for her help with his brilliant lab assistant’s problem, that is just going too far. Insulted, she starts to examine her life. She’s lived twenty-nine years and doesn’t have much to show for it.

Based on Shakespeare’s TAMING OF THE SHREW, this story is funny and light. It is a cute story. However, I had expected more, because I know that Anne Tyler is a very experienced writer. This book seemed more like a children’s book in its writing style. Having such constraints as to recreate Shakespeare’s story while also updating it for today’s readers, must have been difficult and very limiting, though. Still her characters grew on me and made me want to read to discover the outcome. I enjoyed this book.

PierresFamily More than 1 year ago
Vinegar Girl was a deliglhtful Hogarth Shakespeare book written by Anne Tyler. Enjoyable revisiting of "Taming of the Shrew." Kate is our protagonist, and she is the spunky older daughter, who cares for her widowed dad and her younger sister "Bunny." Her dad is a nerdy but gifted scientist, who is studying auto-immune diseases. When his lab assistant Pyotr is in danger of deportation, Kate's father desperately begs her to marry Pyotr. Her decision, and the ensuing consequences, form the remainder of the book. I won't give away any spoliers, but I highly recommend this book, and I wish I could give it more than five stars!
Iora More than 1 year ago
My curiosity was piqued to know how Tyler would a put modern day twist on the Shakespeare classic - and it was cleverly done! This is an uncomplex, simple read with its own charm. I loved her wit and how she handled some of the popular scenes from The Taming of the Shrew.
txgalBS More than 1 year ago
This book was excellent! The humor is very subtle and made me laugh out loud. I'm going to buy more Anne Tyler books!
Gail-Cooke More than 1 year ago
Even those who are not Shakespeare aficionados are probably familiar with one of his most vaunted tales - The Taming Of The Shrew. Whether seen on stage or on screen folks love it and that may well be the reaction to Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Tyler’s whimsical take on the story. Kate Battista is a preschool assistant who is apparently undervalued by her father, her younger sister, Bunny, and most available men. Dad is a scientist who firmly believes that his research will prove groundbreaking if he can just keep his lab assistant, Pyotr Shcherbakov. Problem is Pyotr’s visa is near expiration - how to keep him in the country? Dad thinks the obvious solution is for Kate to marry Pyotr. And in order to convince her to take a walk down the aisle he reminds Kate in his own tactful way that she isn’t exactly surrounded by suitors while her not-half-as-bright sister has boys lined up at the door even though she’s still in high school. Obviously Kate is hurt by her father’s thoughtfulness, and Pyotr doesn’t seem to quite understand the plan (he finds it a strange cultural system). Ultimately Vinegar Girl evolves into a kind of love story. Can Kate resist the efforts of these two men to see her wed? Tyler’s humor takes center stage in this tale masterfully read by Kirsten Potter.
jeanniezelos More than 1 year ago
Vinegar Girl, The Taming of the Shrew Retold, (Hogarth Shakespeare), Anne Tyler Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews Genre:  Literary Fiction   I remember reading some Shakespeare plays at school – but that's a long time ago....and of course with Him Indoors being a TV and Film fanatic I’ve seen bits of McClintock many, many times. I’m usually reading but it kind of seeps into you after the 4th or 5th time...a kind of TV by Osmosis practice! Anne Tyler is an author whose works I’ve never read either, so I went in to this blind, not really knowing what to expect. How would a Pulitzer Prize winning author take on Shakespeare? Actually this  whole Hogarth series sounds intriguing, different authors retelling different plays. Its a slow starting novel, Waspish Kate looking after her family, working at a job which I don’t really feel she loves, or even really likes, it's just one that's a way of passing time, earning money to her. She ruins the home according to her scientist fathers strange rules, everything worked out for optimum efficiency – the meat mash – eurghh – sounds awful. There’s no real joy in her life, younger sister Bunny has fun but for Kate this just feels like a hamster wheel day-after-day with nothing changing. Then her father drops his bombshell plan! It was an interesting read, but for me just too slow, too bland and not really an engaging one. I kept reading as I wanted to see how Anne would make things work, but I can’t say I was gripped, didn’t have that must keep reading feel for me. Its well written, and is an easy book to read but I was left feeling a bit empty by it, as though I really wanted something more to happen, more emotion, more angst, more anything but the eternal plodding life poor Kate lead. She didn’t really help herself either though and at 29 I felt she would have put her foot down by now over at least some of the things that irritated her. Stars: Three, well written, gentle humour but overall one that didn’t spark anything special in me. ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher 
thewanderingjew More than 1 year ago
***This book was provided to me by “Library Thing” as an Early Reviewer copy. This novel is billed as a modern day rewrite of "The Taming of the "Shrew". It is such a pleasant read, without the usual sex and violence that is so prevalent today in books that seem to go on forever for no apparent reason. I found the characters delightfully quirky and enjoyed reading about the developing relationship between Kate Battista and Pyotr Shcherbakov, two characters whose actions were obvious and without guile. The book presents a picture of male chauvinism in a self-deprecating way which is very appealing. The characters seem naïve and unschooled in the social graces and rules of political correctness that permeate so much of life today. Subtly, Tyler points a finger at a world that worships appearance above intelligence, that succumbs to irrational demands above common sense and that often overreacts. The novel is written with a light touch, with tongue in cheek humor as the characters are developed. Their antics are a bit hokey, but they always made me smile. Tyler has developed the characters so clearly that I can picture them in the flesh, hear them in my mind’s eye and root for them to find happiness and success. Subtly, Tyler has analyzed and exposed the frailties and failures of today’s society. Dr. Battista, father of Kate, 29, and Bunny, 15, is obsessed with order and organization. He is a creature of habit, and Kate, still unmarried, adheres to his rules and follows them strictly at home. Kate works as a teaching assistant in the Little People’s School. She doesn’t seem to have a filter and says whatever comes to her mind, often insulting people without realizing it or realizing it too late, since she speaks honestly and openly, to adults and children, without much advance thought about discretion. Pyotr is the higly acclaimed assistant to Dr. Battista. He is from Russia and is in the United States on a visa that is about to expire. He was found on a porch in a box for canned peaches. There was a note attached that simply said he was two days old. He has no known family. Although he is focused, has a steady job and a plan for his future, he feels out of place with no home and he longs to belong and fit into the world. When Dr. Battista suddenly begins acting oddly, taking a greater interest in Kate, she begins to wonder why. Then she realizes that he is playing matchmaker. He is trying to get her romantically involved with his assistant so that he can remain in the United States. His visa is about to end, and he will be forced to return to Russia. This will detrimentally affect Dr. Battista’s years of work and status. He wants her to marry Pyotr to give him legal status. She rebuffs her father and Pyotr. Kate has been the nursemaid, housekeeper, cook, surrogate parent, and even tax accountant for her father. He doesn’t seem to realize the audacity of his latest request. The “favor” he is asking of her is life-altering and illegal. However, as Kate gets to know Pyotr and realizes the depth of her father’s despair, she begins to waiver in her reluctance to agree. At the same time she begins to have thoughts about breaking away and finding her own freedom and independence. Somehow, her friendship with Pyotr has made her understand that she needs to be on her own, needs to get out from under her father, out from his house and into one of her own. Perhaps as she opens a door for Pyotr, he can open one for her. Perhaps
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
While I have never read "The Taming of the Shrew", yes I admitted it, I had no idea what I was about to read. I read the blurb, saw it was one of the most requested books on Net Galley and I thought "what the heck". I am certainly glad I went ahead and requested it. While short, it was a very entertaining read. I still know nothing about the Shakespeare version, but this one was very good. I was surprised at the ending though. I did not think it would turn out that way. I can see now why it was one of the most requested books. I certainly enjoyed and was glad I requested it and was approved. Thanks to Crown Publishing and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler is a highly recommended adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew done for Hogarth Press's Shakespeare project where authors are required to modernize one of the Bard's works. Tackling a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew is a major feat in itself and Tyler does an admirable job despite the limitations placed on her due to the very nature of the project. Kate Battista, 29, is the vinegar girl. She has firm opinions, is outspoken, and values her individuality, but has little opportunity to really exercise this trait. Kate is stuck running the house for her eccentric and needy scientist father, trying to enforce his rules with her 15 year old sister, Bunny, and working as an aide at a preschool, even though she doesn't really like children. Kate is stuck in a routine, but even she couldn't envision the plan her father has cooked up for her. It seems that Dr. Battista's lab assistant, Pyotr Shcherbakov,is here on an O-1 visa that is about to expire and he is not sure how his research can go on without his brilliant young assistant. Dr. Battista has decided that if he can get Kate to marry Pyotr, then Pyotr won't be deported and his research will certainly be able to make some breakthroughs. After all, Kate doesn't have any suitors or real plans, and at least she can be helping him out (even more) if she'll just cooperate. Kate wishes he could just marry Pyotr himself and leave her out of it. This is The Taming of the Shrew transformed into a tale of a marriage of convenience for a green card via Tyler's inimitable style. She uses satirical humor and a keen understanding of human nature to create characters that are memorable in their own right. Tyler notes that this is her attempt to tell the other side of the story, the part that will help make the illogical or inconceivable story in of The Taming of the Shrew make more sense today. She does deftly retell the story in a new, compassionate way and creates some memorable characters. Really, how could anything Anne Tyler writes be bad? She has a gift. Personally, I think if Tyler were allowed to use The Taming of the Shrew simply an inspiration to plot her own story in her own way, this could have been even more successful for me. She could have done so much more with her characters if she had free reign to change the plot or add some more complexities. Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.
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