“It’s hard being a man. Have you ever thought about that? Anything that’s bothering them, men think they have to hide it. They think they should seem in charge, in control; they don’t dare show their true feelings”
-Anne Tyler, Vinegar Girl
by Anne Tyler
Synopsis: 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?
-Taken from Goodreads
I picked this book up on a whim. It is a retelling of William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew so I thought it may be worth a try. Anne Tyler was a Pulitzer Prize winning author so I thought if nothing else at least the writing would be redeeming. However, I did not like this book at all.
Honestly, I feel as though I am pretty easygoing when it comes to rating a book. Even if I wasn’t a huge fan of how the plot was laid out I can give a book credit for the quality of writing. That being said I had far too many issues with this book to be able to do that.
The characters in this novel were neither likable nor relatable. Our main character did not come a cross as the strong willed woman I hoped she would be. Rather she was beaten down and walked all over by virtually every character in the book. The father, sister, and even the “love interest” were merely caricatures of people. I did not feel connected to any of the characters.
That being said I could get past that were it not for the ending. That ending had me incredibly aggravated. It was not because of the plot or character development or anything like that. No, it was the speech given by Kate at the end. Kate takes the time at her “wedding reception” to give a speech to her 16 year old sister about how difficult it is to be a man. Yes, you read that correctly. She stands up for the man who has been rude and disrespectful to every woman in the book. She even goes as far as to call him “abusive” about 20 pages before this moment. Yet, she excuses it all because, “It’s hard being a man.”
This moment not only frustrated me it disappointed me. We should be at a point in our cultural development where we understand nothing is merely because of a person’s gender. It is not an excuse nor should it be a burden. Anne Tyler uses this novel to reinforce the role of a woman as a caregiver and homemaker. A woman should have a choice as to what she wants to do. Yet, it seems in this book Tyler forces all of the women to be subservient and reliant on men because they are women. This is a harmful scenario to promote. We should be working toward gender equality rather than reinforcing he inequalities that have dominated our society.
This book really rubbed me the wrong way. The way that Tyler approached gender roles and marriage created far too many issues for me to like this book.
Have you read this book? Do you think I’m being too harsh? Let me know below!