The Hogarth Shakespeare series is on an incredibly challenging task to get today’s writers retelling Shakespeare’s stories. In some cases, such as here with Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, we see how challenging this task is.
I’ve been a fan of Tyler’s since Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant first came out in the 1980’s, and I’ve read most of her work since then. And as someone who works at a professional Shakespeare festival, I was doubly pleased to see Tyler involved with the Hogarth series.
But Tyler gets the task of retelling a terribly misogynistic story. Can you do that — tell a story about a man who gives his daughter to another man who hopes to ‘tame’ her, and be relevant to modern audiences? Perhaps, but Tyler struggles with it, it seems. This doesn’t feel relevant and the characters come across flat, undeveloped. I didn’t particularly care about Kate here, and if she’s going to be ‘vinegar’ or ‘shrewish’ or however we choose to title her, then there ought to be something about her that we are attracted to in order to root for her. Is it enough to root for her because of her peevish father?
What I found interesting is that in modern productions I’ve seen (two or three), Kate in the play is a strong character, likeable, and though she’s ‘tamed’ at the end, we (the audience) gets the sense that Petruchio is as much tamed as she. That was not the case here for me.
While I wasn’t a fan of this book, it hasn’t shaken my appreciation for either Tyler or Shakespeare, but rather reminds me that not all of Shakespeare’s stories are easily relate-able to modern audiences.
Looking for a good book? Anne Tyler’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Vinegar Girl, struggles to remain relevant to a modern audience.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Anne Tyler
series: Hogarth Shakespeare
hardcover, 240 pages