Book Review: The Princess Bride

Like many people, I have viewed The Princess Bride multiple times and know many of the lines by heart. I didn’t know the film came from a book until fairly recently, so I put it on my “to be read” list. I just finished it this morning.

The film is very close to the book’s plot and characterizations because the same man, William Goldman, wrote it. There is a little more background information on Fezzik, the gentle giant, and Inigo, the master Spanish swordsman, as well as a few other situations.

princess-bride_.jpgThe book is presented as a “good parts version” abridgment of a novel by S. Mogernstern. Goldman writes a lengthy introduction to the book explaining how he first heard it: when he was ten and recovering from pneumonia, his father read “the good parts” to him as he recovered, and young William was enthralled waiting for the next installment. Later he rediscovered the book and realized for the first time that his father had only read “the good parts” and there was much more to the story. So then he goes onto a long narrative about how he came to abridge it. Then throughout the book he steps in to explain what he cut out and why. He refers later to battles with the Morgenstern estate and why he was allowed to abridge only one chapter of the sequel, Buttercup’s Baby.

I was going to say that Goldman’s asides are interesting sometimes but can be distracting and can be easily skipped over by a reader who just wants the story. But before I started writing I looked up S. Morgenstern….only to discover there was none. Evidently the whole Morgenstern original and the legal battles and even Goldman’s son who he refers to were made up (Goldman has two daughters). My mind is still taking in this twist! Very clever! Not only because of the storytelling device, but because the voice and style between Goldman’s asides (almost a manic stream of consciousness sometimes) and “Morgenstern’s” is very different. This is probably old news for many people who have loved and researched the film long before now.

It would be hard to summarize what the story is about for those unfamiliar with it. A farmer’s daughter, Buttercup,  is shamefully rude and abusive to her family’s farmhand, Westley, until she realizes and confesses that she loves him. He goes off to seek his fortune so they can be married. Then she hears that he has been killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Devastated, she knows she will never love again. When Prince Humperdink discovers her and asks her to marry him (or die), she acquiesces. But before the wedding she is kidnapped by a giant, a Spanish swordsman, and a “genius.” She is kidnapped, or rescued, from them by “the man in black” after he successfully matches swords, strength, and wits and overcomes them. Prince Humperdink, of course, comes after them…and I’ll leave the story there for those who don’t know it to discover. You could say the story is about the perseverance of true love, or the fact that all is not what it appears to be at first. A twist on classic fairy tales, what stays with the reader is the brilliant, witty dialogue and the memorable characters.

The only thing that mars the book is a little offensive language, mostly in Goldman’s asides. If I had known it was there, I don’t know that I would have read the book, even as much as I enjoyed it.

12 thoughts on “Book Review: The Princess Bride

  1. While I was reading your beginning sentences of this review, I was carefully watching to see if you found out what I did **after** I read the book and did some online research! LOL What a twist! I love it! My older son and I were just amazed at the brilliance of Mr. Goldman (after we had marvelled over how closely the movie followed the book – finally, a movie that stays true to the book! ROFLOL) in writing a book that was supposed to be an abridgement of another book and pulling it off so smoothly. I, like you, don’t care for the colorful language Mr. Goldman uses. The movie is at the top of our list of favorites, and my children have a large portion of it memorized, too!

  2. I love The Princess Bride. I own two copies (each a gift from two different people). I love not only the story in and of itself but the crafty ways in which the story is written.

    This story is not just your average fairy tales. It is a satire of the conventional fairy tales. Where there be gentle giants and pirates and Miracle Man. Buttercup makes Cinderella seems like just a little lucky cinder lass.

    Btw, Cinderlla’s my fav fairy tale.

  3. The Princess Bride is on my top 3 all-time favorite movie list (along with the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice and the Sound of Music.) I read the book in high school and laughed all the way through it…not often that a book makes me do that!

  4. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: September 15, 2007 at Semicolon

  5. I taught this book to 10th graders for years and let them compare the book and the movie and most felt they complimented each other. I agreed. My son was brought up on the movie and of course as he got older was introduced to the book. Both are on the top of my lists.

  6. I find your comment about ‘offensive language’ to be far more offensive than any language Goldman used. What an idiotic statement for you to make.

  7. As a matter of fact, Simon Morgenstern (the full name is found in chapter 7) is NOT merely fictional. It is from Johann Karl Simon Morgenstern (who went by Karl Morgenstern), a German professor and literary critic, best known today for an 1819 lecture in which he coined the term “Bildungsroman” for a sub-genre of novel involving the education and growth to self-realization of a young person (sometimes now called “coming of age” novels) — in English, think David Copperfield, Jane Eyre and Catcher in the Rye. The Princess Bride can be viewed as an example of the form, and the use of the Morgenstern name as a TRIBUTE.

  8. Pingback: Book Review: The Silent Songbird | Stray Thoughts

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