Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
Fiction – Contemporary Retelling
Published June 21st 2016 by Hogarth
Yay for Shakespeare…I honestly never thought I would say those words but the Hogarth Shakespeare project is actually making it fun (for me at least). In 2015, Hogarth Press launched a project to see Shakespeare’s plays reimagined by some of today’s best authors. I’m excited because I love some of these authors and others I really enjoy the plays they are based on, so I’m hoping to get through all of them (or at least the ones that appeal to me) so we’ll see. But next month Margaret Atwood’s retelling of the Tempest comes out 🙂 Anyway, now that my rambling is done I should probably actually talk about Vinegar Girl, or as I read it, a retelling of 10 Things I Hate About You (I watched that movie more times than I care to admit).
Kate Battista is stuck not really living her own life and constantly being taken for granted by her own family. In her late 20s prime she is running her father’s household and caring for her teenage sister. As a college dropout she is a pre-school teacher where her children adore her but the parents don’t appreciate her very blunt nature. Her father has problems of his own that leaves him constantly neglecting his duties as father and leaving everything to Kate. After years of being almost shunned and definitely ignored by his field he is finally on the verge of a breakthrough that could give him the respect of his peers. However, his lab assistant Pytor is about to be deported and Dr. Battista cannot finish his research without Pytor. From here the plan is born and has Dr. Battista once again depending on Kate to save the day. All she has to do is marry Pytor so he can stay in the country.
I went into this thinking that The Taming of the Shrew would be hard to reimagine in modern times. I think just with the way feminism has been at the forefront of conversation recently it’s tough to make The Shrew super modern even past 10 Things I Hate About You (my favorite movie so I’m just going to keep bringing it up). Long ramble short, I loved this way more than I thought I would. Tyler was able make it modern but also more adult instead of a father trying to marry off his young daughter which I loved.
As awkward as Kate was, I also found her extremely enjoyable and sympathetic. She’s stuck in a rut but doesn’t know how to get herself. She always assumed she would go back to school but just couldn’t find the passion for anything and I think that’s extremely relatable. Any conversation she had was funny but also extremely analytical on societal norms. I think my favorite is when she yells at her sister that it’s more difficult to be a man in our society than she thinks. She challenges all of the norms that put pressure on men to go through life hiding their emotions and to be the strong one in the relationship. I thought this was a great spin on the original play that basically says anyone can be bull-headed and anyone can be emotional and people are allowed to be both at once no matter the gender.
My only real complaint (that still isn’t really a complaint) is that I wish I had more invested in the actual ending. I loved the journey of following Kate and her choices but I had no real stake is what she actually chose.
“(The unsatisfying thing about practicing restraint was that nobody knew you were practicing it.)”
“Beware against the sweet person, for sugar has no nutrition.’ ”
“She had always been such a handful — a thorny child, a sullen teenager, a failure as a college student. What was to be done with her? But now they had the answer: marry her off. They would never have to give her another moment’s thought.”
“Adam had nothing to do with her, really. He would always make her feel too big and too gruff and too shocking; she would forever be trying to watch her words when she was with him. He was not the kind of person who liked her true self, for better or worse.”
Probably not, this book had a lot of fun part that felt true to what Shakespeare did with his comedies. Although depending how I like the other books I may ending up buying it to have the collection because I have a problem.