Culture Street

Books

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

On June 23, 2016

By Sophia Whitfield

The Hogarth Shakespeare project sees Shakespeare’s works retold by acclaimed and bestselling novelists of today. The series launched in October 2015 and to date is published in twenty countries.

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler has just been released and as the title suggests is based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

In Tyler’s contemporary setting, Kate (the shrew) is a pre-school teacher. Kate Battista is feeling trapped. She runs a house for her eccentric scientist father and her spoilt, prissy sister Bunny. Her widowed father is increasingly consumed by work, taking Kate for granted in her role as chief housekeeper and carer. To make matters worse Kate always seems to be in trouble at school. Her young students adore her but her colleagues do not look on her breaches in protocol favourably.

After years of research Dr Battista is on the brink of a breakthrough. There's only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr he can’t possibly manage on his own. Relying on Kate’s assistance again, he devises a plan to keep Pyotr in the country.

Anne Tyler's Vinegar Girl asks how much of a compromise an independent woman is prepared to make for a man, with surprising consequences.

A charming retelling of a story that does not always sit well today. Delightful and funny, it has all the hallmarks of the original with a contemporary twist. You can buy the book in Australia here and in the UK here.

In this special film Anne Tyler joins authors Jeanette Winterson, Howard Jacobson, Tracy Chevalier, Gillian Flynn, Margaret Atwood and Jo Nesbo to share what attracted them to become part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project, in which they create a series of novels inspired by Shakespeare's plays. Why is Shakespeare so irresistable, why did they chose the play they did and do they have a favourite line from his work?

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