Vinegar Girl: The Taming of the Shrew Retold (Hogarth Shakespeare)
Random House UK, Vintage Publishing
Pub Date 16 Jun 2016
What could be better than the pairing of one of my favourite authors of all time, Anne Tyler, and one of my favourite Shakespeare plays – The Taming of the Shrew. Sadly, quite a lot. Tyler’s book is part of Vintage’s “Hogarth Shakespeare”, marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death: “The world’s favourite playwright. Today’s best-loved novelists.” Nice idea, to a point, but also a gimmick, and despite Tyler’s best efforts, that is all the Vinegar Girl ever feels like.
So we get Kate Battista a pre-school teacher in Baltimore (obviously). She lives at home with a teen sister and a mad scientist / academic father who is on the verge of a major scientific breakthrough. The problem, due to immigration laws he is also about to lose his brilliant eastern European lab assistant, Pyotr, unless …
I really really wanted to love this book, but it felt uncomfortable – Anne Tyler books don’t feel uncomfortable: the effortless fluidity of her prose doesn’t allow for it; but here the prose often feels clunky and unconvincing.
I had hoped that mostly disposing of the bianca/bunny plot line would mean a more focused and sharper battle between Kate and Pyotr, but alas, no.
I kept trying to put a brave face on it, but it was no use. It just felt like a 74 year old trying too hard at writing YA fiction.
The most disappointing novel of 2016.
Review copy: Random House/NetGalley