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Book Review: Vinegar Girl (Hogarth Shakespeare) by Anne Tyler

Title: Vinegar Girl, Anne Tyler
Print Length: 240 pages
Publisher: Hogarth
Publication Date: June 21, 2016

Modern updates to age old tales have been a theme lately. Similar to the Jane Austen project (ie: Eligible), Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl is a part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series retelling of Shakespeare’s classic The Taming of the Shrew. I love an update to a classic just as much as the next person and had fairly high expectations for Anne Tyler on this one. She didn’t disappoint.

Kate Battista is obstinate, socially awkward and entirely devoid of tact. But she’s also lonely. Living at home as a caretaker for her eccentric scientist father and dimwitted (yet popular) high school aged sister, Kate finds herself drifting through her day to day activities relegated to the fact that her life consists of preparing the same weekly meals, keeping Bunny away from boys and doing her father’s taxes. Caretaking seems to be her thing, as even this extends to her profession as an assistant at a preschool (I got a laugh out of her interactions with her young charges). Kate, it seems, takes care of everything. So when her father’s lab assistant’s visa is on the brink of expiration, naturally it is Kate whom he looks to as the solution to his problem. Because why wouldn’t his eldest daughter with very few prospects want to marry his brilliant, foreign lab assistant?

I was curious how Anne Tyler was going to revise this storyline to make it work for present day readers. As those familiar with the original Shakespearean comedy already know, there are major misogynistic vibes throughout (looking at you Petruchio). The “taming” of the female characters displayed in the original would not bode well with today’s audience nor would it be appropriate. I was happy that Tyler was able to spin this into a story about two people who despite cultural and social differences are able to make a relationship work. While not the ideal situation initially – Kate and Pyoder are able to develop a camaraderie that works for the storyline and today’s audience. The characters are amusing and charming which makes this a fun update.

Vinegar Girl is available for Pre-Order Now and will be available to purchase on June 21, 2016

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