Anne Tyler || Vinegar Girl
Anne Tyler is the author who almost clinically writes about family matters showing her edgy side whenever necessary. Since I like her style of writing I was looking forward to her retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare’s slightly outdated comedy about a shrew who has to find a husband. More than enough family matter to dig into one might say. I fear Anne Tyler was slightly in awe however of the task she was given: retell this exceedingly thin story in a modern way and try to honour world’s greatest playwright in doing so. The task might have been made even more awesome by the fact that others have done just so: think Kiss Me Kate but also the brilliant 2005 BBC-version. In that retelling the scenario writers showed that a thin story can turn out brilliantly if you dare let go. Viewers could enjoy ambitious and acrimonious Katherine on her way to become the second female prime minister, in want of the essential husband who entered in the shape of an impoverished failed lord. The chemistry between actors Shirley Henderson and Rufus Sewell took care of the rest. And there’s my problem. I also had to let go. Not from the Shakespeare original (I think I saw that once on German television featuring Klaus Maria Brandauer oozing charm), I had to let go of the BBC-version. The first part of Vinegar Girl had me wondering why Tyler had chosen to exaggerate her characters: father and Pjotr/Petruccio are caricatures, scientists with no sense of normal life, sister Bunny is the quintessential American adolescent, Kate is an unworldly almost autistic young woman who has dedicated herself to her family and who has strayed from her own path in doing so. Halfway through the novel Kate’s path becomes more important, at that point Tyler has got me. Kate is no longer Pjotr’s way to obtain a green card, Pjotr turns into her way of distancing herself from her family. I do not know whether there’s a format restricting Tyler and the other retelling authors to a mere 150 pages, I do know that I would have loved to have read more about Kate discovering herself. That discovery is interesting and exciting and writing about it makes Tyler shine. That Tyler can be a comedian by the way is shown in the marriage scene which might have been written with the chemistry between Sewell and Henderson in mind.