Anne Tyler’s Modern Take on an Old Classic
I’ve been a fan of Shakespeare since I was very young. Reciting lines, answering trivia and even acting out bit parts (before landing a part as Titania, but that’s another story)–so I’m fairly familiar with the story of Taming of the Shrew. If being a fan of the Bard isn’t enough, we have the pop culture-laden film 10 Things I Hate About You to serve us on this journey.
Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl is NOT 10 Things I Hate About You, and that is Tyler’s genius.
Kate is a modern woman, and thoroughly dependent. However, she quit college and moved home to help her widowed father with her much-younger sister, Bunny. And while Kate is satisfied with her work at a local preschool, sometimes she does think about her future–mostly when she sees her cackling colleagues celebrate weddings and baby showers and various ‘you’re a woman so you want this’ milestones. Kate prefers to spend time with the children, and Andy, a male colleague from another room…but Kate is still the rebel of the school for her honesty (especially with parents about their children’s aptitudes).
Kate’s father begins acting weirder than normal–and as a typical absent minded scientist, he has the bar set pretty high. When he brings home his colleague and asks Kate to marry Pyodor in order for the man to get a green card, Kate has reservations. And, she also has to chase her sister’s paramour/Spanish tutor away from her sister. Kate struggles with the idea of an arranged marriage, until her father lays some ground rules and states that things won’t change for Kate. But then Kate begins to spend more time with Pyodor and realizes that he isn’t as bad as she thought he was. But, does Kate’s modernity stand in the way of a possible happy ending?
Anne Tyler is a master of wordcraft. And in Vinegar Girl she really takes a modern look at Shakespeare’s classic and relates it for the masses. I’ve always loved Kate/Kat, so as a character it was not hard for me to feel empathetic for her choices and decisions. Within twenty pages of the book, I was rooting for her, as I am sure most readers will. Vinegar Girl – A Modern take on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew – artfully balances the nuances of family life with the everyday. Yes, we are all weird, and yes, that makes us normal. But, despite the choices we make (and those choices being on a different timeline than someone else’s timeline), we’re all in the same boat at one time or another.
While Bunny will always be the female that the males fawn all over, Kate is, herself, a character to be reckoned with. She is a mental and physical match when she wants to be, and completely able to fade in the background on HER terms. And I think the things that set Kat apart from Bunny are her best assets.
I was not a fan of Pyodor in the beginning of the book, and I also felt terribly angry at Dr. Bautista for suggesting the union. But, at the same time, I was drawn into the family dynamic and exploring the past that created and brought the family up to Vinegar Girl.
Disclosure: I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The thoughts are my own.
What is your favorite Shakespearean story or favorite retelling? Please share below.