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The Folger Spotlight

Words, Words, Words: 'Vinegar Girl' by Anne Tyler

The Folger’s virtual book club, Words, Words, Words continues on Thursday, May 5 with a discussion of Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler. To get ready for the conversation, we’ve compiled some introductory information on this contemporary take on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

What is Vinegar Girl about?

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?

Critical Reception

Vinegar Girl is a fizzy cocktail of a romantic comedy, far more sweet than acidic, about finding a mate who appreciates you for your idiosyncratic, principled self — no taming necessary.”—NPR

“Novels such as Anne Tyler’s, which are so precise and current, are like photographs or digital clock faces that tell us where we are and where we are coming from at the same time. “Vinegar Girl” is an earthy reflection of this fleeting moment, both lively and thoughtful..”—The New York Times

“Fun, accomplished, readable, enjoyable.”—The Guardian

Why did we pick this book?

The Folger Shakespeare Library’s collection explores not only Shakespeare’s life and works, but also the plays’ historical context, source material, critical and performance histories, and the ways in which they inspire and are adapted by contemporary novelists.

Vinegar Girl, part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, borrows its plot structure and character inspirations from Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, updating its themes of gender roles and marriage to reflect contemporary concerns.

About the author: Anne Tyler
From her website

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is the author of more than twenty novels. Her twentieth novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2015. Her eleventh novel, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1989. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Meet our Bookshop Partner: One More Page Books

One More Page Books

This month, we are excited to partner once again with One More Page Books, an independent bookstore in Arlington, VA offering books, wines, and chocolates. Their mission is to provide a place for community to come together to share a love of reading through author events, book clubs, and open conversation. Check them out at

Order online or by phone (703.300.9746). Curbside pickup is available at the shop from Tuesday-Sunday and shipping is available.

You can also order this title as an e-book or download an audiobook version from

Make a plan to join us on Thursday, May 5 to discuss Vinegar Girl. Visit our website to register and stay tuned for additional Folger resources to enrich the conversation.

We would like to thank the following organizations for their generous support of this program: