I only picked Vinegar Girl from the library since it was on the “Lucky Day Shelf”, which usually means its a popular book that you can pick up today and not have to wait for it on hold…get it…its your “Lucky Day”. Most books that I’ve gotten from this section have been well written or really popular. Its not always my style, but I can usually see why its popular. Not so with Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl.
I read the cover which described the character Kate Battista as almost spinster-like and caretaker of her father, her sister, and their home. She organized lunches, does all the laundry, cleaning, etc, all the while totally unappreciated by anyone that she does anything for. I thought dear old Kate would have some sort of awakening moment and it might make an interesting, easy read. I read the novel and waited for her epiphany that she’s being used and she needs to create her own life. When her father proposed that she marry his research assistant to extend his visa, she rightfully freaks out. This was finally the point that she’d break through and become her own person and stop being a doormat!! Except, that didn’t happen. While the assistant is foreign and quirky, he’s also kind of a jerk. And yet Kate goes through with this horrific marriage to escape her father and sister. Oh, and at the wedding she defends her new-husband who beat up a teenager by saying “It’s hard being a man.” WTF?
And incase you think this was written in the 1850’s when marriage was the only way for a woman to escape her parents, it wasn’t. This is a modern horrifying novel. The only pretense at modernism is the Epilogue that has, without any actual character development, Kate receiving a Botany award when her kid is still young. This woman has done nothing in the Botany-world other than having a hobby as a backyard gardener. This was absolutely preposterous and its like the editors realized how sexist and horrible this novel is and wanted to give it a feminist finish.
Anyway, this was horrible. Don’t read it. Don’t let your friends read it. Burn it if you see an impressionable young girl reading this who’s trying to look to the world around them for what might be acceptable treatment that they should expect in a relationship, with a parent, sibling, or boyfriend.
Read June 2017
UPDATE: Since reading the book and writing this blog, I’ve learned that this novel is based Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, a play I’ve never read, but from a quick search has some controversy as either being witty satire or a horribly misogynistic play. I’m not sure what Tyler was hoping to achieve with Vinegar Girl, but I did not see much wit, but an awful lot of misogyny.