Title: Vinegar Girl
(Hogarth Shakespeare series)
Author: Anne Tyler
Genre: Literary Fiction / Retelling
Rating: 4 of 5
In this retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio’s (Pyotr’s) “break her spirit” vibe has been tamed down to something more likable and socially acceptable. This renders the story (for me at least) more enjoyable.
This is a less strict retelling than New Boy was for Othello, but no less entertaining for that. Aside from Kate’s off-putting bluntness, there wasn’t much resemblance to the Shakespearean original until about halfway through the book. The author mostly dispenses with all the hidden-identity/wooing-of-Bianca (Bunny) subplots and focuses on the Pyotr/Kate relationship. I thought that updating “marrying her for her dowry” to “marrying her for a green card,” was particularly clever.
As far as the characters went: at times Kate was so socially clueless that she seemed like she belonged somewhere on the autism spectrum…but I suppose Shakespeare’s Kate was pretty outrageously rude too. Pyotr is much less intentionally mean than Petruchio with a lot of his bluntness/rudeness coming from cultural differences. Kate’s father (Dr. Battista) is transformed into an exaggeratedly eccentric scientist, and her sister (Bunny) becomes an airheaded teenager…both of whom feel a bit more like something out of Austen or Dickens than Shakespeare.
Overall, I’m not a fan of romantic books (or The Taming of the Shrew) but quite enjoyed this book…the Hogarth Shakespeare series continues to impress.