Wednesday, July 13, 2016

"Vinegar Girl," by Anne Tyler

It seems that there are more and more books that are fictional retellings of famous literary works from the past. I have written here about the fact that many of Jane Austen’s novels, for example, have been retold in modern settings. I have just read a very new such retelling, in this case of Shakespeare’s play “The Taming of the Shrew’: this version is called “Vinegar Girl” (Hogarth, 2016), and is authored by the inestimable Anne Tyler. Apparently it is part of a planned larger project by Hogarth. Kate Battista, an American woman of thirty, is unmarried, and has a job as a preschool assistant teacher that she doesn’t particularly like. She lives with her father and her much younger sister, taking care of them and the house; her mother has died many years ago. She feels a bit at sea in her own life. The main plot point is that her father, a scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, wants her to marry his research assistant so he can extend his visa to stay in the United States. Kate is of course resistant, and angry at her father. She, like the original Kate, doesn’t care about pleasing everyone, thus the “vinegar” in the title. I won’t give away the rest of the story, although you may be able to guess it. The story is told with Tyler’s familiar verve and warmth. It will be of interest to see which other Shakespeare plays will be retold by writers of today; stay tuned!
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