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Vinegar Girl Book Review – A Literary Retelling of “The Taming of the Shrew”

Vinegar GirlVinegar Girl Book Blurb

Pulitzer Prize winner and American master Anne Tyler brings us an inspired, witty and irresistible contemporary take on one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies

Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work – her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner. 

Dr. Battista has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There’s only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, all would be lost. When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying – as usual – on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he’s really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?

Vinegar Girl Book Review

Anne Tyler, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, takes Shakespeare’s familiar love story and retells it for a modern audience. Where the original came across misogynistic, Tyler’s revision spins the tale with an elegant, literary gracefulness. The greater focus on family relationships and strong characterization for Kate also marks Vinegar Girl as an ideal stand-alone novel to read over the summer.

RELATED | The Taming of the Shrew – An Uproariously Funny Modern Adaptation

While nothing compares to the hysterical 2005 TV adaptation starring Rufus Sewell and Shirley Henderson, Vinegar Girl similarly succeeds in retelling the story through a contemporary lens. The story follows Kate, a preschool assistant teacher, who has nothing going in her life. Trapped, she sees no escape in sight. And part of the problem isn’t really that Kate is a shrew, but rather she’s uncomfortable and awkward around people. She has a lot of walls.

And her scientist father isn’t much help either as he expects Kate to take care of everything, including her much younger sister Bunny. The dynamics between these three will really draw you in because the relationships are so realistic. Tyler captures Kate’s sadness at being taken advantage of for instance.

So, when her father proposes Kate marry his Russian lab assistant Pyotr to secure a stay in the country, it’s the last straw. What must her father think of her to marry her off to a stranger? She’s clearly a spinster with no hope for love and marriage, right? The father also comes across as caring more about his research than his daughter. Thankfully, he is more 3-dimensional than that…

RELATED | Seven Shakespeare Adaptations Lovers of the Bard Should Check Out

Even though Kate’s father is an insensitive man, hope is still on the horizon for Kate. Pyotr, while slightly strange, sees Kate and truly likes her. He’s also a man with no place in the world. No family. No real country to belong to either. He appreciates Kate, something no one else really does. Sure, there’s a scene where Pyotr goes over the top at one point, but I still liked him because of his sincerity and kindness. He never really sets out to “tame” Kate, but rather opens the door for Kate to escape and make something of her life.

Overall, Vinegar Girl is a quick read that is both beautifully written and romantic. And most importantly, it’s an adult, literary novel without the explicit content. Rather, Tyler writes with a classy style suited for readers who prefer their love stories a little more old-fashioned. Definitely a book worth a few hours of your time!

Adaptation Recommendation

As a sucker for Shakespeare film retellings in the modern day, I say adapt this one for the big screen. Vinegar Girl would make for an adorable romantic comedy, something we are in desperate need of nowadays. Casting wise, Pyotr definitely suits Danila Kozlovsky of Vampire Academy fame. As for Kat, I would cast Anne Hathaway because she has such a rare talent for comedy. Bring back her Princess Diaries style and this romance onscreen would be a surefire hit.

You can buy the book on Amazon or elsewhere online in ebook, hardcover, or paperback form.

Content Note: Vinegar Girl contains minor adult language.

Overall Rating

Four and a half corset rating

“You had me at hello.”

Romance Rating

four heart rating

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My

feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me

to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

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By on June 10th, 2017

About Autumn Topping

In second grade, Autumn wrote her first story, “The Spinach Monster,” and hasn't stopped writing since. Intrigued by the tales her grandmother told of vampires, witches, and ghosts as a girl, she's always been drawn to the fantastic. Later, Autumn studied English and Creative Writing (continuing her love for classic literature and everything old-fashioned) and graduated with an MA in Children’s Literature and an MS in Library & Information Science from Simmons College. Currently, she co-runs this lovely site and works as a YA Librarian.

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1 thought on “Vinegar Girl Book Review – A Literary Retelling of “The Taming of the Shrew””

  1. I really need to read this one. It sounds great! Am always on the look-out for another great retelling of The Taming of the Shrew 🙂

    I love your casting of Danila Kozlovsky and truly wish that he could get more roles in English-speaking projects. He has such a lovely soft accent! Maybe they could at least give us another advert with him like the Chanel one where he was with Keira Knightley.


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