This novel is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project, where bestselling novelists take one of Shakespeare’s works and retell it in their own way. I recently read Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (see link here: https://veereading.com/2017/01/05/hag-seed-by-margaret-atwood) and was floored by the retold version. This made me more eager to get into this Hogarth Shakespeare project and read other retellings!
Kate Battista feels stuck; her life consists of running house for her eccentric scientist father and her bubbleheaded, pretty, younger sister Bunny. To make matters worse, her job at the pre-school is on the line because her unusual and forthright manner is not considered “acceptable” by the parents of her young charges.
Dr. Battista has his own fair share of problems. After years of working in the lab, he is finally on the verge of a breakthrough in his immunology research. The only problem is that his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, isn’t a resident of America, and his green card is expiring – fast. Without Pyotr, the project has no hope.
But Dr. Battista has a plan that will allow Pyotr to stay in the country – and in his lab. All it would take is some help from Kate. When Kate learns of this plan, she is furious. No way would she go this far! But will she be able to resist her father and Pyotr, with their ridiculous campaign to win her over?
In the Shakespeare course I took in my undergrad, I had to write an essay on The Taming of the Shrew. We analyzed it as a class, and at first, I laughed at the comedic nature of the play. But when I had to do a character analysis, I found that Shakespeare, while sticking with the norm of his time, had left me unsatisfied. Reading the play made me feel that Katherine’s character was underdeveloped, and I really didn’t like her husband and his attitude. While I still like the play, I didn’t like any of the other characters, and I felt a great deal of pity for the shrew, who really didn’t deserve all of that!
This novel gave me the chance to love the characters and enjoy the story completely. I loved Kate and her weirdness, her frank attitude to everyone and everything. I liked Pyotr a lot, with his improper English and his sincerity. The story that Anne Tyler presents here is one where Kate shines, where we see her view of the events that are occurring. Kate isn’t a shrew, she is Vinegar Girl – and there really is a difference! I laughed and giggled and smiled throughout the entire story, because it was cute and amusing and tender-hearted beyond belief. It took Taming of the Shrew, and made it into something lighthearted and sweet, where all of the characters were likeable. This is definitely an amazing retelling! So far, I’m having a lovely experience with the Hogarth Shakespeare project, and I can’t wait to read more books in this series!