Sunday, 4 September 2011

'The Princess Bride' by William Goldman (1973)

Synopsis:  Buttercup has fallen in love with her family's farm boy, Westley - and when he leaves to make his fortune she vows never to love another. When she hears that his ship was captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts, and that no survivors were left, she's naturally heartbroken. But her beauty draws the attention of Prince Humperdinck and he'll stop at nothing when it comes to getting what he wants...

Several years ago now, I watched this book's film adaptation and absolutely LOVED it. It's seriously one of my favourite films ever. It's a truly fantastic spoof-fairytale that came out YEARS before the likes of Shrek and Enchanted. I was thrilled when I later found out that The Princess Bride was based on a book which I later bought and read. The book is brilliant too and has become one of my all-time favourites. It's just as good as the film! It's inventive and has incredibly witty and funny lines. It's extremely well-written and has very loveable characters, with Westley and Inigo Montoya being my personal favourites. In fact Inigo Montoya is one of my favourite fictional characters and my blogger name is partly named after him.

Actually, as much as I love the film I do think the book is even better. You get more backstory on the characters such as Fezzik and Buttercup's parents, and you learn more about the death of Inigo's father and Prince Humperdinck's hunting obsession. The book is hugely entertaining all the way through, it's full of HILARIOUS and quotable one-liners, and it has everything that you could possibly want in a book: action, adventure, fencing, fighting, revenge, romance, passion, destiny, magic, giants, Rodents of Unusual Sizes, heroes, villains, pirates, comedy, drama, chases, escapes, love, hate... even a Zoo of Death and a Fire Swamp!

Although the characters, dialogue and story of The Princess Bride are impressive enough there's also an inspired story-within-a-story element as well. William Goldman makes the claim that he's abridging The Princess Bride from S. Morgenstern's version; leaving out all of the boring bits about politics and history and only sticking to the "good parts". Occasionally Goldman will break into the story and include tales about his battles with his editors about what to cut and what to keep in, or give recollections about his father reading the story to him as a child. The latter was probably the basis for the interruptions in the film where the grandfather is reading The Princess Bride to his grandson. The interruptions in the film are very funny but they're even funnier in the book because they remind me of boring parts I've read in other novels. Who CARES about the Queen packing and unpacking all her hats?! Just get on with the story! The Princess Bride is one of the few books I've come across where interruptions and digressions such as these actually enhance the story rather than taking away from it.

I have to admit that I'm not really a fan of the short story Buttercup's Baby that was added to the book's 30th anniversary edition though. It's by no means terrible but it just wasn't necessary to put the story in there and left me with a sour taste in my mouth. It still doesn't take away from the brilliance of the original book and ending though and I love The Princess Bride to death. If you haven't already then I seriously recommend reading it and discovering its brilliance for yourself.

Rating: 5/5

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