Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
|Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A reworking of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. I knew exactly how it would end, but I still couldn't put it down.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: March 2017|
I often think that fiction is wasteful: an author develops a good story and great ideas for characters and writes the book - and that's it. How much better if a good story - a classic story - can be recycled, repurposed for a new generation? That's exactly what Anne Tyler has done with her reworking of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.
Kate Battista is in an odd and not entirely satisfactory situation. At the age of twenty nine she finds herself working as a teaching assistant and running the home for her scientist father (who is eccentric, to say the least) and her younger sister Bunny, who might be fifteen but is actually three going on thirty. Dr Battista has other problems - and when he has a problem he offloads them onto Kate (he's concerned that she hasn't yet done his taxes). This time though, it's serious. Pyotr, his brilliant young lab assistant, is in the USA on a visa and it's about to expire. If that happens Dr Battista is convinced that he'll not be able to complete his work and all that he's done will be for nothing.
He's got a plan though. The obvious solution is for Pyotr (Battista can't even pronounce his name correctly) and Kate to marry. Initially, Kate's astounded that her father would expect her to marry and enter into a sexual relationship with a man she hardly knows, but Battista's shocked that she should even have thought this. No, the plan is that Pyotr will move into the Battista house and occupy the old housekeeper's room - and everything will go on just as it did before. But Kate's a strong woman, unused to taking any nonsense and the two men's campaign to get her to agree to their plan is ludicrous - not least because the plan is actually designed to get the Department of Immigration to accept that the marriage is genuine rather than to woo Kate.
I wasn't entirely convinced by the ending, but then I've never been convinced by the original either and that is the constraint imposed by a reworking. Having said that everything else was a delight. I wanted to shake the men. I laughed at Bunny and I thought that Kate was wonderful. I never believed that she would sacrifice herself for a man, but I couldn't quite see how the man could adapt so that it wasn't a sacrifice. Anne Tyler achieves this with style.
Initially, I picked the book up, just to 'have a look'. Hours later I was still reading and decided to miss something I'd originally intended to watch on television because the book was more fun: when you know how it's going to end that's an amazing credit to the author and I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
If reworkings appeal to you then you might also enjoy The Food of Love by Anthony Capella which reworks the story of Cyrano de Bergerac. The French Dancer's Bastard by Emma Tennant reworks the Jane Eyre story from the point of view of Adèle Varens. The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight by Jenny Valentine is a reworking of Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey and The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine takes another look at Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility and The Winters by Lisa Gabriele takes another look at Rebecca.
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