Are you familiar with William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew? If you are, you know it to be a dark and still somewhat controversial play. Well I’m excited to say that Anne Tyler recently wrote Vinegar Girl; a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew and I loved it. It wasn’t nearly as dark as the original.
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Goodness Lauren, this must be a thing, reading modern retelling stories.” LOL! Well, I can see how you would think that after I shared about Eligible, a modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice last month. But I promise that is simply a coincidence. I saw Vinegar Girl at the library and I was instantly intrigued after reading the synopsis, plus it had these stickers that read “NO RENEWAL” and “14 DAY LOAN” on the front and that sounded like a challenge! It was as if it stared me straight in the eyes and said, “I dare you to read me in 14 days and not like me!”
Challenge accepted! And boy am I glad that I accepted that challenge. It was a great book. I was drawn in by the quirkiness of Kate’s family. Her scientist father was a hoot and the dilemma he found himself in trying to keep his Russian research assistant (Pyotr) in the US was a brilliant way to tie in the arranged marriage. Kate is a 29-year old sourpuss who spends her days in the garden and attempts to take care of her younger sister, Bunny, and her father. However, she is not exactly housewife material.
Ms. Tyler does a remarkable job of eloquently describing her characters and settings in such detail that it instantly takes you away and drops you right into the novel. I felt as though I was sitting there eating “meat mash” with the family while listening to Bunny explain, in her 15-year old, know-it-all way, why she has decided to become vegan.
The way that her father pushed and pushed for Kate to be the solution to Pyotr’s soon-to-expire visa, a plan to trick the immigration office, cracked me up. There were moments I struggled with the notion that a father could ask such a thing of his daughter, but on the other hand it was like a bad car wreck, I couldn’t stop reading to find out how it would resolve. Would she or wouldn’t she marry Pyotr? Would the immigration office sniff it out? And perhaps I’ve seen one too many Hallmark movies, but despite the “arranged marriage” aspect of their relationship would they actually fall in love?
The way Ms. Tyler let us into Kate’s head as she processed the “should I, shouldn’t I” throughout this story was fascinating and often times I couldn’t help but relate. True human nature at it’s finest.
I highly recommend Vinegar Girl. Of course, I’m a firm believer that modern retelling of classics should never replace the original. So if you haven’t read Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” you should read it, or better yet, go see it on stage! But then be sure to pick up a copy of Anne Tyler’s, Vinegar Girl and enjoy a fun, quick read! If I were to give it a rating (5 stars being ‘knocked it out of the park’ and 1 star being ‘don’t bother, it was so bad I could barely finish it’), I’d give Vinegar Girl 4 stars!!
Anne Tyler has written more than 20 novels over the years, some that you may recognize are: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, The Accidental Tourist, Breathing Lessons (winner of 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction), and many more.
Have you read Vinegar Girl? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did you like Ms. Tyler’s modern retelling? Anything you’d have changed? What about the way she tied in the arranged marriage? Did you miss the darkness of the original?