In this retelling of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Kate Battista is a preschool teacher’s assistant, who lives at home with her scientist father and high school aged sister, Bunny. When Dr. Battista suggests that Kate get married to his lab assistant, Pyotr, so that he can stay in the country, Kate is appalled. Her father isn’t actually considering marrying her off like chattel to further his career, is he?
The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare’s plays that I have never actually read. I’ve watched a few adaptations (10 Things I Hate About You is an all-time classic) so I know the basic ins and outs of the story, but I’ve never actually interacted with the source material before.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let me say that I found this book frustrating. And not in a Shakespeare-why-can’t-they-just-talk-to-each-other-and-figure-this-out-this-is-way-more-complicated-than-it-needs-to-be kind of frustrating. Kate was frustrating. I understand that she’s supposed to be an unlikable character. I appreciated her flaws – her bluntness, her dislike of children, her judgmental attitude towards her sister – but I found her dialogue infuriating. The way that she spoke just felt so stilted. And I don’t think this was an issue with Anne Tyler’s ability to write dialogue. I loved the way she included Bunny’s upspeak, and the preschoolers’ conversations were very true to form. Kate, however, spoke as if she learned English from an android. Like Data from Star Trek, not the phone system.
I also found it frustrating that for all of Kate’s bluster – that she’d just say what was on her mind and not put up with anyone’s crap – she really let the whole marriage plot happen to her. She just didn’t fight it. Which is a little ridiculous, considering her character definitely seems like the type that has a lot of fight in her.
I did have a lot of fun going along for the ride, though. I enjoyed learning the details of the Battista’s lives, I enjoyed getting to know Pyotr and Kate’s colleagues at the preschool. I enjoyed meeting Kate’s extended family. I loved watching Pyotr learn the particulars of American culture. And by the end of the book, I was really warming up to the novel as a whole. And then came the epilogue.
Oh, the epilogue. Epilogue, you have ruined too many a good book for me. Books that were excellent, that ended with a smile on my face (or tears) as I imagined the characters going on in their lives (or not) as the credits rolled on, you tore apart with your need to tie up every single loose thread. Too much of the time, when an author writes an epilogue it is because they do not have faith in the reader. The reader has just spent upwards of 250 pages with these characters, in this world, yet the author does not trust them to understand where these characters end up after the book’s story ends. And because of this, they add an epilogue that is clunky and unnecessary. And this book was another perfect example of that. In this case, the epilogue actually made me rethink whether I actually appreciated the ending of the book itself, pre-epilogue.
This was a nice, modern adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew. The characters were familiar, but the take on the plot was new and refreshing. The dialogue was stilted, and the epilogue was unnecessary, but the book as a whole was rather enjoyable. If you love The Taming of the Shrew, or its adaptations, don’t pass this one by. If you’re not a big fan of the story, feel free to give this one a miss.