Bestselling author Anne Tyler is known for her quirky characters and her clever story lines, but in her most recent novel, Vinegar Girl, Tyler has some help from someone fairly reknown himself – William Shakespeare.
Vinegar Girl is part of the Hogart Shakespeare project sponsored by Hogart Press. The Shakespeare project provides readers with a variety of Shakespeare works retold as contemporary stories by a variety of well-known authors. Vinegar Girl is a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew.
I would love to tell you all the ways in which Vinegar Girl is better or worse than the original Shakespeare play; however, I’m somewhat embarrassed to tell you that I have never read it or seen it performed. Okay. I got that off of my chest.
Following her mother’s death, Kate Battista took over the care for her discombobulated scientist father and her pretty and conceited younger sister Bunny. She gave up her dreams of college and instead, cooks and cleans their home, tries to steer Bunny towards good decisions, and works as a preschool teacher.
Dr. Battista learns that his Russian research assistant is about to be deported, meaning they will have to give up on the research project they have been working on for many years unless they can find a way to keep him in the United States. Dr. Battista comes up with the idea of his daughter Kate – who seems unmarriageable anyway – marrying Pyotr to keep him in the US.
The storyline plays out in a way that is humorous and frustrating, delightful and infuriating, poignant and playful. The plot allows Tyler to write in her usual clever style, and while the Shakespeare play apparently ends with the main character explaining to her sister that she made her decision because men are sovereign, Tyler’s ending is absolutely perfect. Flawless. Charming.
I admit that though Tyler has always been one of my favorite authors, I haven’t liked her more recent novels quite as much as her earlier works. But Vinegar Girl left me feeling the way I always have felt – satisfied and wishing that I could spend time with the characters in real life.