William Goldman – The Princess Bride

20Nov09

Mish @ Stage And Canvas convinced me to read this book with a comment on the Great Movie Adaptations’ Weekly Geeks. It sounded like a fun, light-hearted read, and that’s exactly what it was. Fun. Light-hearted. Feel good.

It’s a book that combines the best elements of all the classic fairy tales, and exaggerates them to the point of hilarity. There’s true love, poison, revenge, hatred, pride, giants, miracle men, witches, great fencers, epic duels, beasts, torture, the villain and his cronies, and the hero who has to save the day.

It’s a complicated plot, where in the opening section, the most beautiful girl in the world, Buttercup, realises she’s in love with the farm boy, Westley, and she professes her love, which is obviously reciprocated. However, Westley decides to go to America to seek his fortune, but he is killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Devastated, Buttercup says she must never love again. And she doesn’t.

When Prince Humperdinck  (don’t you love the name?) finds her, he asks for her hand in marriage, saying the matrimony needn’t be bound by love. Buttercup agrees to the union, but, before the grand wedding, she is kidnapped by a genius Sicilian hunchback, a giant (who fears loneliness), and a wizard fencer (who is seeking revenge on the nobleman who killed his father). A man in black, better with the sword than one of the best fencers in time, stronger than the giant, and cleverer than the hunchback saves her, but ends up leading her to the nightmarish Fire Swamp, with quicksand and ROUS, or Rodents of Unusual Size. And this is there I stop telling the tale, lest I give too much away.

How can you not love a book which has lines like:

My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

or,

“Fool!” cried the hunchback. “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia,’ but only slightly less well known is this: ‘Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.'”

He was quite cheery until the iocane powder took effect.

I was literally laughing out loud, and was thoroughly entertained. I loved the movie, and I love the book a little bit more, specially for its twisted plot, and for the obscure ending.

What, in my opinion, is truly genius though, is the fact that this is supposed to be the “good parts” version of S. Morgenstern’s classic tale of true love and high adventure. However, S. Morgenstern is a figment of Goldman’s imagination, and doesn’t actually exist. Why is this genius? Well, only because at the beginning of the book Goldman states it’s his favourite book ever, and his father read it to him while he was recovering from pneumonia. Throughout the book, Goldman adds “notes,” explaining some of the cuts he has made, for the original work was apparently epically long. These notes also include some of his thoughts, like, how a children’s book is bound to have a happy ending, and how, the leading lady will not be killed by sharks half-way through the book!

‘Life isn’t fair, Bill. We tell our children that it is, but it’s a terrible thing to do. It’s not only a lie, it’s a cruel lie. Life is not fair, and it never has been, and it’s never going to be.’

These comments from the so-called “abridger” reads completely independently, and, can easily be skipped/skim-read. But then, Goldman talks at length about the trouble he had with his fictitious book’s estate, and he makes an incredibly convincing case – which, retrospectively, I attribute to being satirical as well.

It’s a great book for children, and adults, and it just is a fairy tale as no other.

Rating : A+

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24 Responses to “William Goldman – The Princess Bride”

  1. I would love to read this. I’m adding it to my list.

  2. Ooh, I think the line: “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die” is one of the funniest movie quotes ever and we often say it to each other in jest! :-)

  3. This sounds like so much fun! I would read it just for ‘Rodents of Unusual Size.’ Wonder if this was the inspiration behind Infinite Jest’s maurauding feral hamsters…?

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Wonderful review!

  4. I have never considered reading this before, but I’ve added it to the list now – great review – thank you!

  5. I adore this book! A comfort, comfort read.

  6. 11 Sarah

    Kike Claire, I adore this so am glad you enjoyed it. When as a kid I realised there was no Morgenstern and hence no unabridged book, I was bitterly disappointed!

  7. The movie is a bonafide classic so I think I’m going to have to read the book! :-)

  8. I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages! Great review.

  9. This is possibly one of my all-time favourite books, I’m so glad you’ve written such a great review! I remember dressing up as Inigo Montoya many times. :P (even when it was totally inappropriate to the theme).

    Sarah – I remember the same heartbreak!

    • Awww, I never dressed up as him either! Did you have the fancy sword as well?

      I can easily imagine this becoming an all-time favourite. It’s just… such a comfort read!

  10. This movie is one of my favorites and I need to read the book. Some of those lines are in the film. Great review :)

  11. I grew up on the movie and I’ve loved the book. Reading your review tells me how much I want to reread this! How fun!

    My sister (a non-reader) told me she went searching for the original Morgenstern book. Haha. Not sure if she was pulling my leg or not, but she loved it too!

    • Oh, I’d look forward to a re-read review… it’s such a feel good book, that I think a re-read would be amazing.

      I did search for the original, but to no avail. The whole “abridged tale” was so believable, that I’m still amazed. Aww, your poor sister….

  12. I love this idea! Books written about ficticious books are so cool and involve such a lot of imagination to bring them off convincingly.


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