[655]: Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler


Knopf Canada | June 21st, 2016 | Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

The latest in the Hogarth Shakespeare series is Anne Tyler’s interpretation of The Taming of the Shrew. I’ve looked forward to reading this book ever since I’ve heard of this all-star endeavour. The Taming of the Shrew is a personal favourite of mine because of Katherine. To me, she’s the queen of ball-busting sarcasm and witty repertoire. And even if it took me several tries before I got her zings due to Bill’s usage of the old language, I know that for every Elizabeth Bennetts in the literary world, there lives a version of Katherine Minola underneath.
Vinegar Girl is loosely based on this Shakespeare comedy. There was no bet to get Kate to go out with Pyotr. Instead, we have her father trying to marry her off so he could keep working with him for the good of Science. Bunny is as superficial as Bianca was but still somehow managed to show some sister love in her own way. Kate’s family (which consists of her father and Bunny) are two of the most selfish creatures I’ve ever known who can’t function without Kate’s coddling. Their father is one of those poor clueless characters whose life’s primary focus is to Science. His knowledge of raising two daughters is severely lacking which left the burden of Β keeping house to the older Baptista. Despite the way he underappreciated Kate’s value, I like their father-daughter dynamics. It was endearing with an underlying sadness attributable to the missing mother who died or disappeared or left (I can’t remember. Sorry.).
Kate, for the most part, was an interesting character. She’s stuck taking care of everybody; a push-over who hates her job (she’s a teacher’s assistant) but loves being with the children. Because in some way, they understood her. She goes with the flow and is easily accepting of her family’s failures. She wasn’t the admirable version of Katherine Minola for the majority of the book for sure. She grew a backbone eventually once she realizes she can’t always set aside her wants for the sake of her family.
As far as the romance goes, it’s barely there and I didn’t mind it a bit. Pyotr is a Russian Scientist who got to know Kate through her father’s – for lack of a better word – “pimping”. I found him adorable in his own way. He turns his less than stellar command of the English language into a comedic schtick.
I didn’t see the development of their relationship, to be honest. Anne Tyler doesn’t like showing too much, and while it wasn’t a sudden thing, I would’ve appreciated knowing Β the exact moment when Kate realizes Pyotr could be the man for her (not that she was looking. She was forced into it – kind of.).
Vinegar Girl is a far cry from the original, for sure. But I like that Anne Tyler retold the story that it came off a bit more realistic and modern than the original. She gave Vinegar Girl her voice, her stamp, as it were. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I appreciate it, nonetheless.
  • Retellings, whether they be of classics, childrens classics, or plays (I guess whatever level of classic? Or book/work of words that gets retold?), are just so marvellous. Bringing a well loved story back to new audiences (and old audiences who love it already) is such a nice idea, and sometimes finding new favourites (of old favourites) happens and it’s wonderful. I feel like there’s often a liklihood that you can be disappointed, though, since if you love somthing powerfully/intently enough it can be upsetting when it’s changed or retold and you’re not a fan of the way another person has done that retelling. So it can be a really interesting and sometimes good, sometimes not so much kinda experience. I’m really happy to hear that, for the most part at least, you ended up really enjoying this one!

    I haven’t actually read the original, but it sounds like the characters were still captivating for you and that’s such an important facet. That the characters carry on their personality and the goals, attitudes, means, even when bringing the story into the modern world, it’s so nice. Also, I adore that cover. I saw you share it on IG or here, a few weeks back, and I’m still swooning. SO PRETTY JOY. *gasps for a day and a half*

  • Jazmen

    Not sure about this, just not sure.

  • Lol, the only reason I know the plot of The Taming of the Shrew is because of 10 Things I Hate About You – one of my favourite movies. I like the sound of this modern take although I’d only be able to compare it after I read the original πŸ˜‰

  • RO

    Like most kids, I didn’t like having to read Shakespeare in school, but once I got the hang of the writing style, He was a keeper. This one sounds really creative. Hugs…

  • I’ve bought a few of these Shakespeare retellings seeing you’ve enjoyed them before Joy, but I can’t remember ever having read the original Taming of The Shrew. The romance sounds not too bad, I’m glad it doesn’t overwhelm the storyline though. I like seeing that build up between characters though and disappointed it wasn’t the case. Sorry you couldn’t have enjoyed this a little more Joy, but wonderful review nonetheless <3

  • I have this one and want to read it but first I want to read the original! Because this is one Shakespeare play that I actually have yet to read myself… it sounds like the original is really good. Although this one is different, it sounds like it still manages to hold its own?

  • Wonderful review Joy! I’ve been meaning to read A Spool of Blue Thread by her but just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Another book to add to my list :).

  • I’m glad overall this one ended up being an entertaining read! Having read Bill’s original, I’m sure this Katherine had much to live up to character wise. I have never read the Taming of the Shrew, but watched the movie and just loved how feisty she is.

    Lovely review, Joy!!
    I hope you have a fabulous weekened:)

  • Melliane

    Too bad for the romance but it sounds like a good one! I didn’t know about it so thanks for the review

  • I actually have never read Taming of the Shrew but I do remember seeing a movie of it. I think the details of this one would be lost to me because I wouldn’t be able to connect the two stories. I guess that doesn’t matter though, right? Since you say they are so different. I am glad it somewhat worked for you!

  • shootingstarsmag

    I’m not a HUGE fan of Taming of the Shrew; I have other Shakespeare favorites. I’m curious about checking out some of these “new” versions though. Sorry you didn’t really love this one.


  • It’s always nice when they can work a retelling to be a bit more relatable and realistic!

  • Jesalin

    I was going to request Vinegar Girl for review a few weeks ago but I was a little skeptic as to if I was going to enjoy it…It’s good to hear that some people are enjoying it for the most part, but I haven’t seen someone completely hate/love it yet xD Wonderful review! πŸ™‚

    -Jess @jbelkbooks

  • Natalie

    I just snagged this from the library today. I’m excited to read it…and really all of the Hogarth series. Gillian Flynn doing Hamlet!? Yes, please!

  • I knew this was a retelling so of course that made me curious. Now I do think I want to read it and I’m glad you tamped down my expectations. I think I’ll enjoy it more now. Brilly review.

  • Preeeeetty picture πŸ˜€ Love it. <3 Gorgeous review Joy πŸ™‚ I'm glad you liked this one, but aw, I'm sorry you didn't love it : It doesn't sound all that good, to be honest, haha πŸ˜€ Not for me. But you are awesome for reading it. <3 Hugs.

  • I like The Taming of the Shrew too but the fact that the romance here didn’t impress you would probably bug me. If a book has a romance, I need it to be done well!

  • Hmm, I can’t say it wows me

  • Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    I love The Taming of the Shrew but I’m sorry to hear it’s a far cry from the original! πŸ™ I fear I may not enjoy this one since I adore the play so much, so I might just skip it but thanks for reviewing this! I always like to hear about re-tellings so this is going on my “maybe” shelf until I hear more! πŸ™‚