Book Review: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I saw The Princess Bride movie when I was probably about eight years old, and have watched it numerous times ever since. It was a part of my childhood, and I’m pretty sure I could say the entire movie verbatim. But, for some reason, I never bothered to read the book. Whether it was because I heard it was slightly darker than the movie or I just was afraid reading the book with lessen my enjoyment of the movie, I’m not sure. And now, just a few months after it’s author, William Goldman, passed away (he died in November of 2018), I finally read it.

And this book had me believing the most absurd things…

Release: 1973

Synopsis: (from Goodreads because I am not summing up this madness) “As Florin and Guilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchmen, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this dazzling adventure, she’ll meet Vizzini – the criminal philosopher who’ll do anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik – the gentle giant; Inigo – the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen – the evil mastermind behind it all. Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup’s one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate.”

Non-Spoiler Review

This book is slightly darker than the movie, but in most every way it is the same story. The humor is the best part, as is Goldman’s random commentaries about Morgenstern (not a real author, spoiler alert!). The story itself is a rather simple one, and yet it is the storytelling itself which makes this book a rather hilarious read. Saying that, there are also some deeper issues addressed, such as Humperdinck’s sadism and death. It’s a fascinating book, made even better after (or before) watching the movie.

First of all, let me just say I was completely believing Goldman in the beginning. I read the 30th anniversary edition, in which there are two introductions by William Goldman, continuing his absurd charade. As the story goes, when William was a child, his father read him a story when he was sick. This story was originally by S. Morganstern, and was over a thousand pages. But his father only read him the good parts of The Princess Bride. When Goldman was an adult, he finally read the full version and decided to make an abridgement of the book himself.

I believed it in the beginning…I know, maybe I’m not so bright, but he was super convincing. There were a few things that didn’t make sense (like the dialogue feeling modern instead of when Morganstern could have written it), and it was only when I looked up Morganstern to try to get the full, unabridged version of The Princess Bride that I realized Morganstern was an invention in Goldman’s brain.

As it turned out, Goldman started writing this story, only to not be able to get through the second chapter (about Humperdinck) and decided to start this whole “this is a good parts abridgement thing.” In fact, apparently for years some people believed it was true (expect for the fact that none of it was).

Anyway, I’m getting carried away with backstory. Let’s just say, if you do read the book, read it all as fiction, not just the fairytale parts.

Above that, there is very little for me to complain about. The plot is fast-moving, the characters hilarious, and the book gives great backstories for things just touched on in the movie. The ending, however, ended on a bit of a cynical note for me.

Spoiler Alert!

In the movie, the story ends on a high note. Humperdinck has been defeated, Buttercup has been rescued, and our intrepid heroes ride off into the sunset, when Buttercup and Westley have love’s true kiss. A bit ridiculous, but still optimistic.

The book’s ending, however, is a bit darker. As they are running away, “…Inigo’s wound reopened, and Westley relapsed again, and Fezzik took the wrong turn, and Buttercup’s horse threw a shoe. And the night behind them was filled with the crescendoing sound of pursuit…”

Excuse me? You can’t even give them a happy ending, Goldman, and you use Morgenstern as a scapegoat? Horrible!

And don’t even get me started on Buttercup’s Baby (the first chapter of a sequel Goldman started but never finished), which is included in this edition. It is absolutely depressing (everyone dies!), and I beg you not to read it if you enjoy the happier story.

Conclusion

Saying that, this is a great book, and a fun read. If you like humorous fantasy (for example, an author like Terry Pratchett), I highly recommend this book. It’s one I’ve been meaning to read for years, and I am happy I finally got to it. Saying that, the ending wasn’t perfect, but in many ways I agree with Goldman that this has elements of being a satire.

Ironically, in this book, when Goldman’s father first read him the story, he was sick with pneumonia as a child. In real life, Goldman died just months ago from complications with cancer and…wait for it…pneumonia. A suitably ironic end to the life of a great writer.

Have you read this book? Or watched the movie? Or both? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

  1. I’ve seen the film, but didn’t read the book. However, since the film wasn’t really to my tastes (maybe I should’ve been younger when I first saw it), I’d say I’m likely to skip the book.

    Anyway, what I actually wanted to say was this: it’s okay to be gullible! πŸ™‚ I mean, the opposite of being gullible is being cynical, and of those two options, I’d say being gullible infinitely better.

    (Of course, the best option of all is to have the naivete of believing in fairies AND the shrewdness to evade schemers…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I try to achieve balance in everything. While I certainly don’t try to be gullible, if a person is completely cynical in their life nothing surprising can happen to them! So I agree. I will say, to enjoy the movie, you definitely need a certain kind of eccentric humor, so it’s not for everyone. And if you didn’t like the movie, you probably won’t like the book either.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s