Mini classic review: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams?

As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad’s recitation, and only the “good parts” reached his ears.

Now Goldman does Dad one better. He’s reconstructed the “Good Parts Version” to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.

What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

In short, it’s about everything. 

“Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches.”

The Princess Bride is one of the few examples of the movie being better than the book, and its genuinely upsetting to say that. I truely believed I was going to love this book — it’s a cult classic for a reason. But I found it frustrating, annoying and too meta for my taste.

Essentially, Goldman has created an imaginary author of The Princess Bride called S. Morgenstern, and his version of the novel is an abridgement of the original, which was 1000 pages long. This isn’t true, Goldman is the real author of the book, but I guess it’s his attempt at a post-modern fantasy book. Which, in my option, doesn’t work.

The edition I read was the 20th anniversary edition, which has a 50-page introduction by William Goldman explaining how The Princess Bride abridgement came to be and then randomly explaining how he, maybe, had an affair? At the end of The Princess Bride, there’s another chapter where Goldman discusses attempting to get the rights to abridge the sequel (which ends up going to Stephen King) but spends a lot of time talking about how fat his son is; then his son loses weight and becomes really attractive. Yeah, its weird and just plain bad. It’s very obvious Goldman thinks he’s being hilarious, especially with his made-up story about Stephen King, but to a modern reader, it’s just plan cringe.

I’ve read reviews that explain the weird introduction and final chapter is only found in the 20th anniversary edition, which has led me to wonder if I would have loved the original had I read it. I guess we’ll never know, because I’m never reading this book again. I watched the movie for the first time a few days after reading this book and mainly enjoyed it, and it has led me to wonder if so many fans have a deep nostalgia for the book based solely on the movie.

However, there are some things I really enjoyed about the novel, mainly the side characters. Inigo Montoya was great and I thoroughly enjoyed his backstory. Fezznik was sweet and his life was heartbreaking. There were parts where I genuinely laughed out loud, but I think that had to do more with the silliness of the plot than anything else.

I was mildly offended by the Sicilian but I guess it’s all in good fun. Buttercup and Westley’s love story was ok but not the epic romance I was expecting. I found them both to be much more interesting in the movie than the book, especially Westley.

At the beginning of the book, the narrator gives a warning about how annoying their interruptions of the story is and to not read them if you don’t want to. I wish I had listened to that warning — I may have enjoyed the book more then.

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