This post on Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl is going to be a little lame, since the novel is a rewritten, modern version of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew which I have never read (but have SparkNoted!). I will read Shakespeare’s play as soon as I can and perhaps come back to Vinegar Girl and talk about it more with its originator, but for now, if you’ve stuck around, here are my thoughts on Vinegar Girl as its own novel.
This is not a difficult novel to read. I finished it in an afternoon, and it would be a great beach read or airplane read because of its succinct and fast-paced story. A story that filled me with dread in the sense that the protagonist is unbearably pitiful, from my 21st-century [modern woman] point of view. The language is not flowery but still captivating, drawing me into the web of sister-sister relations, father-daughter strifes, and the willing sacrifice of one’s self to make a loved one happy, regardless of how selfish that loved one may be.
It occurred to her suddenly that he was thinking – that only his exterior self was flubbing his th sounds and not taking long enough between consonants, while inwardly he was formulating thoughts every bit as complicated and layered as her own.
Well, okay, a glaringly obvious fact. But still, somehow, a surprise. She felt a kind of rearrangement taking place in her mind – a little adjustment of vision.
Looking at the parameters surrounding the original work (Shakespeare’s), I have concluded that Anne Tyler successfully took on the task of a modern interpretation. While I’m not totally hooked onto the genre of rewritten literature (I’m still reading Eligible and am wondering why I’m not just reading Pride and Prejudice again/instead; more on that later), this novel and those like it are excellent examples of how important the arts of writing and literature are.
Our modern social and political issues, hardships, and family matters may be slightly more complex with the internet, connections, and other technology that exposes us to so much more outside of our bubbles, but they still arise, and it’s a nice reminder of why reading and studying historic literature or the Classics is relevant: we look at literature to guide us, to humor us, and to construct our own ideas of how to solve problems.