December Reading Challenge: Vinegar Girl

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 because 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), this novel and those like it are excellent ways to show how timeless literature is or can be, regardless of modern advances. Our current social and political issues, hardships, and family matters may be slightly more complex with the internet, digital connections, and other technology that exposes us to so much more outside of our bubbles, but it’s reassuring (to me, anyway) that we still have literature and books and authors to guide us, to humor us, and to help us construct ideas for solving problems.

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