REVIEW: Vinegar Girl - Anne Tyler


I've literally only just turned the last page but wow, seriously wow. Anne Tyler's re-writing of Shakespeare's The Taming Of The Shrew isn't just a feminist approach to a misogynistic play, but it's funny. It's out now so I recommend you get yourself a copy, like, asap (here).

If you didn't know already Vinegar Girl is just one Shakespeare modernisation of a whole collection. Some of the world's best authors are taking part in the Hogarth Shakespeare Project so have a quick Google and see whatever else takes your fancy. I personally am keen to give Margaret Atwood or Gillian Fynn's versions a go.

Kate, our main character, is bold but not bossy. She runs the household for her useless father and naive sister. In between her gardening, cooking the meat mash, working at a pre-school and doing the taxes, she's never met the man for her. In fact, everyone around her is expecting her to become an "old maid". Enter Pyoder, I mean Pyotr, Kate's father's lab assistant who needs a green card. There's only one solution, right? Kate and Pyotr must marry.

Pyotr is the same impolite, brutish character as Shakespeare's original although a lot of these faults are justified or explained. "It's his accent" or "he doesn't  understand" - which are fair enough, are often used as excuses. Whenever Pyotr does try to use the traditional wife-must-obey-husband logic, Kate puts him firmly in his place.

All the way through I felt an undercurrent of suspense. Would Kate be "tamed"? Or would she refuse to marry him? I couldn't see the third option which of course had to exist. But I'll let you find that one out for yourself.

As a vegetarian I was worried that the animal rights storyline may come across as another punch line to a joke but while Anne Tyler kept the writing witty, it was by no means offensive. Bunny's "phase" to vegetarianism lasts throughout the story, so the joke is on Kate in that instance.

Vinegar Girl is a huge step away from Anne Tyler's previous work. While maintaining the Baltimore charm, it is a more modern, dysfunctional story that explores female power in relation to today's social construction.

Let me know what you thought and if you have read any other Shakespeare re-writes as part of the Hogarth Shakespeare Project!

Love, Jess

I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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