Vinegar Girl

Kate Battista was gardening out back when she heard the telephone ring in the kitchen.

What a gross disappointment, ew. Sometimes a book just doesn’t fit you right from the start. In this retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew it starts with the introduction of characters that are quite impossible to love or even like.

This is followed by the plot (quite logical), a situation which main character balks at for approximately five chapters before completely giving into it without any clear motivation. If this novel set out to depress about how some women don’t have any outlook on life and what they want to do with it, it succeeds.

Something extra to grind my gears is that – after it has been shown that this guy she needs to help out might not be so ugly and annoying after all – there’s a demonstration of verbal abuse and aggression. And Kate just … takes it.

Combine this with an epilogue that is about as plausible as the Harry Potter’s one and it leaves a lot to be desired. Ten Things I Hate About You did this much more entertainingly.

Vinegar Girl, Anne Tyler, Hogarth 2016

A Spool of Blue Thread

Late one evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny.

This may be a period in which I unconsciously drift towards family dramas/stories. Or maybe I just want to find another Everything I Never Told You to blow me off my feet. And this is a Pulitzer Prize winning book, sign me up! Right? Sadly, there was no blowing here.

The reader jumps through the time line of the Whitshank family. It’s about Red and Abby and their children, and later their grandchildren, but it’s about young Red and Abby as well, and even Red’s parents. It shows how the most random (little) situations can grow into a family, and that family doesn’t always have to mean love, communication or living (close) together.

So what was lacking? For me, the tone used felt a bit fake to me. Too chipper, too “Here, luv, let me tell you the story of my family, dear.” Combine that with (some) characters that (sometimes) don’t move past twodimensional acting and it quickly falls back to a small town novel, instead of the grand and appealing.

I just didn’t discover the reasons for why I had to care about these people, why I had to support their frustrations (although one character gets a very short end of the stick). It’s a book for a rainy afternoon on your day off, but don’t expect any warmth to come off it.

A Spool of Blue Thread, Anne Tyler, Random House 2015