Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew has inspired adaptions in the largely successful musical, Kiss Me, Kate and the teen movie classic, 10 Things I Hate About You. Throughout the years Shakespeare’s play drew critical reviews and the various retellings provide their own meanings on the themes of the play. Anne Tyler lends her masterful craft in her novel Vinegar Girl: The taming of the shrew retold as part of the Hogarth Shakespeare collection where Shakespeare’s plays are reimagined by bestselling novelists.
The comedy’s story focuses on Kate Battista as the heroine who finds herself attempted at being tamed by Petruchio. Vinegar Girl is set in today’s world where marriages of convenience are a rarity but the ideal of marriage is still a real ambition. Taking care of her eccentric scientist father on the brink of a breakthrough and her younger and wilder sister, Kate is stuck figuring out her place in the world.
When Pyotr, her father’s irreplaceable lab assistant, is threatened with deportation, Kate is given a harrowing proposition to help the two men. What will Kate decide? And how will her decision impact the lives of everybody around her, especially her own?
Vinegar Girl is a short tale but is full of wit, humor, and an endearing set of characters. Tyler’s reimagination is in a way a response to the play’s original themes of gender roles, family, and a woman’s role in a marriage. The story is set in modern day Baltimore, Tyler’s iconic setting for her stories, so these themes are addressed with a contemporary perspective. It is hard to deny Kate the laud she deserves. She’s thrown into ridiculous situations and it is satisfying to watch her character develop towards the end.