In 2012, Hogarth, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, launched the Shakespeare Project to publish the works of Shakespeare as retold by acclaimed and best-selling contemporary authors. Vinegar Girl is Anne Tyler’s retelling of the comedy, Taming of the Shrew.
Kate Battista is a young woman, efficient in her role as head of the domestic household in maintaining a stable environment for her eccentric medical researcher father and beautiful but flighty younger sister. Having assumed the role at the early death of her reality challenged mother, Kate has constructed a headstrong and jaundiced personality that keeps all people outside of her little family at bay. Anne Tyler uses Kate as the foundation of a beautifully structured novel that captures the essence of Shakespeare’s play.
A dilemma caused by Pyotr, foreign research assistant to Dr. Battista with an expiring US work visa, causes Kate to react in word, deed, and self-evaluation with an increase in shrewishness. Anne Tyler’s wonderfully written story increases the tension of us readers who want to love Kate but, like other characters in the novel, are put off by her threatening demeanor.
Readers need no artificial incentive to follow the story and take a keen interest in the characters. However, a lovely coups d’oeil opens the reader to a surprising understanding of Kate’s self- concept and the relationships she has with her extended family and Pyotr.
This is one of the best novels I have read in the past year. It is a perfect update of Shakespeare’s work in a contemporary context and structure.