Anne Tyler’s newest novel, Vinegar Girl, retells the story of The Taming of the Shrew–which just happens to be, as Tyler told the Washington Post, her least favorite Shakespeare play.
The play that teaches men how to handle their unruly wives has long been a source of frustration (and reinterpretation) for feminist critics. Tyler’s novel, which is part of the Hogarth series where contemporary writers reimagine Shakespeare stories as novels set in the present day, sets the story in–where else–her hometown of Baltimore. Titular shrew Kate is an outspoken, often offensive woman living with her widowed father and underemployed sister. As in the Shakespeare play, the plot tracks a marriage that urgently needs to happen; Tyler updates the story by making a swiftly-elapsing visa the point of contention.
From there, the novel leans on one of Tyler’s strengths as a writer: her skill and subtlety at examining “the often sad but also funny miracle of two separate people actually staying together,” as one reviewer wrote.
In other words: come for the Baltimore references; stay for the love story. And stay tuned for Margaret Atwood’s take on The Tempest, out later this year!
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