YotFC REVIEW: THe Princess Bride


William Goldman
The Princess Bride
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
october 8, 2007 (Kindle edition)(orig. published 1973)

Blurb via Goodreads:

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.

Woohoo, another edition to my Year of the Fantasy Classic reading challenge! Go me, shoulder pat blah de blah. Onward! (This is my fourth review for it. I’d allotted five – for a whole YEAR. I don’t think I’ll make it. L to the O to the L.)

First of all, there’s no sex in this book. There’s a little brief mention by Buttercup about sex, which is at least somewhat amusing and I’ll explain why later, but there’s no sex. Not even a Little Sex. Not one cop-a-feel by Westley – yes, WESTLEY, not Wesley and I know I’m not the only one who thought it was Wesley when watching the movie for the millionth time – no heavy petting or anything beyond a chaste peck or two on the lips. Now that we’ve got that out of the way we can all go on with the very PG book.

I really enjoyed this book, but I’m also equally flummoxed by it. And before I go any further I think you’ll understand why I just cannot review this book without copious references and comparisons to its movie version, which I’ve seen more times, probably, than I’ve seen my 7-year-old child, who I interact with on a daily basis (OK that’s an exaggeration, but it makes the point – the movie’s been watched crap tons). That being said, I didn’t realize many things about the book version before going in. For example, that Goldman wrote this as an abridged version of a fictional author’s full-length book (the cover on the Kindle edition didn’t mention that as some covers do).

Oh! There’s probably going to be A LOT of (things in parenthesis) in my review – the author does this so much it’ a wonder it ever got published. Usually insertions via parenthesis are pointless hand holding by the author, things the readers could well figure out for themselves, but Goldman makes it work…eeehh, for the most part. I’ll explain more about that later, too. (I may need to make a list of all the things to explain later, lest I forget…grabbing notepad.)

So, OK, this book – WOW. Totally worth reading if you’re both an avid fan of the movie and of reading in general. That last one is a must because, frankly, there’s no way you’d get through the book if your an occasional reader who feels like they’d like to “try out” a book. This one would not be the one to encourage you to get into that habit you’ve always wanted to have for reading. That being said, it’s pretty verbatim, what was done in the movie. Goldman writes good stuff, and it shows because his screenplay for the movie is almost completely scene-for-scene and dialogue-wise as it is in the book. There was real fun to be had in coming upon the scenes that are in the movie and I couldn’t stop myself from reading the lines in the voices of the actors. (In my head, of course, so as lot to appear…oh wait, I did read some stuff to the family in The Spaniard’s voice. Love that guy.) There was such a sense of gleeful satisfaction in reading this book and experiencing everything I loved about the movie in here as well. How often can we diehard readers really say that a book and its movie counterpart are that much the same? I figured that since Goldman’s account of The Princess Bride is an “abridged” version of the good parts of this fictional Morgenstern’s full-length book, then Goldman’s movie is an abridged version of an abridged version. Brilliant! The movie is definitely more to-the-point, and this was a downfall of the book at times, it’s lengthy-ness with some scenes, but the book also has a lot of good to offer that we never saw in the movie. That being said, they really, really broke down the movie version well. The good parts indeed. The good parts of the good parts! Oh man, that’s also brilliant and funny, but I fear I’m starting to ramble, as I felt Goldman was prone to.

And hey – how often do we say don’t talk about the author in reviews of their work? Well, he’s IN his own book, so – deal’s off. (Sorry…sort of.)

Lord, there’s so much to say about this book. The characters – love them. All of them. Even while I kind of grew to loathe Buttercup, and Prince Humperdinck is truly shown to be much more psycho than the movie lets on, and Count Rugen is even worse in his own psychosis, I loved them all. I relished, absolutely relished, with the kind of glee reserved for puppies after a squirrel, the fact that even the villains are explored in interesting ways that develop them well. Very well. There’s meticulous time taken to showing the reader how everyone, from Fezzik, the giant, to Westley, the pseudo farm boy turned sailor, to Miracle Max (the miracle man, duh) is the way they are and why. For example, there is an uproariously funny account (one amongst SO MANY) of why the Prince seeks out Buttercup for a bride and what led him to it, which had a lot to do with the princess of Guilder. We learn what motivated Inigo Montoya, who was merely referred to as the Spaniard for a good while (actually, Fezzik and Vizzini were also only referred to in generalized ways at first), but much more beyond what’s seen in the movie. We learn of who his father actually was and what led up to Inigo’s personal hero’s death. We learn many things abut Buttercup – most of which (and it pains me to say) I didn’t like. She’s such a spoiled snot of a selfish person in the book and honestly I don’t get what Westley saw in her (though it was HI-larious that she’s the one that knows everything about sex, and tells him she learned of it in royalty school, whereas he seems to be as chaste as when he left the farm). BUT, I know, too, that the book is meant to be a parody of the average fairy tale/love story so that’s why I also loved her character. Goldman is just more realistic in his approach with princesses.

There’s just as much interest given to the worldbuilding, with it’s fictional European countries of Florin (in which the main characters reside and do most of their shenanigans in) and the country across the sea (Or was it a mere channel?), which is Guilder. By the end of the book you could almost believe that these countries truly exist, tucked away somewhere amongst Europe’s other old, established and esteemed landscapes. Goldman interjects (via parenthesis of course) many interesting tidbits about said landscape, though at times these did get to be tedious (more so towards the end of the book for me, personally).

(How are my parenthesis, by the way? Too much? I’ll note that for posterity. Wink.)

Where Goldman’s interjections got to be truly tedious were after the story itself of The Princess Bride truly ends. But that wasn’t the end of the book. No, for another 20% or so of my kindle version (I assume it’s the same in any current printed version – or wait, I think this was supposed to be a 25th anniversary edition maybe…honestly which version it is, is also confusing), Goldman takes this really loooong, weird foray into….honestly I’m not quite sure what. There’s so. much. explaining of why the story ended as it did, as if he is justifying it. There’s mentions of Buttercup’s Baby, a sequel that is still, to this day, only a fictional mention and not published because the author still hasn’t written it, but these mentions do occur in the version I have, as if there is a huge demand for it. And I just didn’t get it. This odd 20% was truly taking away my enjoyment of having read The Princess Bride. I don’t understand the author’s need to have been a character in his own book (with all the parenthesis) AND then this almost incoherent last 20% of the book. It was all blah blah blah after a while and I skipped it eventually.

And that’s what I advise should you ever choose to read The Princess Bride. Ignore whatever you need to of the author’s interjections and interruptions (he often assures the reader his interjections are not interruptions, but actual good, helpful stuff – and some of it really is worth reading) and relish the richness within. There is some seriously genius study of every single character of import, and some briefly insightful things about the lesser as well (a true talent, that, getting across big things with few words or details). I feel like a whole other world of The Princess Bride was opened to me, and I love them both. Each possesses strengths that are worth spending time with. This would be an absolutely spectacular book for discussion – so fess up. Ever read it? What were your favorite parts? What did you like the least about it? (AND did you read the bishop’s wedding lines as they were done in the movie? “Mawwwwiiiidge.” Admit it, you so did!)

But if you haven’t ever seen the movie….and you haven’t ever read the book, I suppose I could share more about the plot. About the farm boy and the milk girl. The Dread Pirate Roberts and the Cliffs of Insanity. About why fencing with your left hand is so important. Why giants are so awesome and sword-wielding Spaniards are completely endearing. I could even tell you why evil villains are so grossly fascinating with their special machines, or why fire swamps are pivotal things. Or what a miracle man actually does. But if I did? It’s nothing compared to how that movie and the book it comes from will make you feel as you watch or read them. Go watch it. Go read it. Enjoy.

Rating: Four Scoops

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  1. So, wait, the original book by Morgenstern doesn’t actually exist? That… explains a lot, actually. Hm. I didn’t know that when I read this, but I still agree with you. For the most part this book is BRILLIANT, but Goldman’s interjections, especially toward the end, went from pointless to annoying to just like WTF?! Let the book end how it ends, dude. I was pretty annoyed by the time I finished it. I still kept the book, though. :)

  2. Okay, I had to get up off my sickbed to go find my copy of The Princess Bride, which I also thought was based on an actual book. Hey, I was a LOT younger when I read it! I have a 1987 copy of the book (yes, I do keep books that long), and it has not quite a full page of stuff after they go riding off into the sunset, so that other stuff must have been added on since then. LOVED the movie, have seen it a hundred times, can QUOTE it (and I have a terrible memory!), and thought the book just added on a little history.

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