Book Review: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Title: The Princess Bride
Author: William Goldman
Genre: Fantasy
Date Read:
31/07/2014 – 06/08/2014
Rating: ★★★


princessbridecoverYou’re probably looking at those three measly stars up there and thinking, “What?! How can she rate such a classic anything less than 5/5?!?!?!” Well… pretty easily, in fact. I feel like this book was trying to be clever and missing the mark. I felt like it told me way too much rather than showing me. I thought the fictional personal of the author was kind of a jerk. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.

Most people will know the story of the Princess Bride from the classic 1987 movie starring Cary Elwes and Robin Wright, even if they’ve never read the book. For those that don’t, it goes like this: Buttercup and Westley are in love, but Westley leaves to make his fortune. Unfortunately, he is captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts, and Buttercup resigns herself to never seeing him again. She becomes engaged to Prince Humperdink, who has ulterior motives, including framing the neighbouring country for Buttercup’s murder so he can have himself a war. The book also as an extra layer: supposedly, Goldman is abridging a book his father read him as a child, by the great Florinese satirist, S. Morgenstern . When he gave a copy to his own son to read, he discovered that in fact his own father had chopped out the boring bits and just left in the exciting, adventure stuff. Every now and then Goldman interrupts the narrative to give us a rundown of what he’s chopping out, or commentary on what we’ve just read.

… and that was so fricking annoying. I didn’t like being told that there was description I was missing, or that so-and-so from such-and-such university says this is a perfect example of Morgenstern‘s brilliant satire but he found it boring so out it goes. This would have been a perfectly acceptable fun, adventure story without any of the commentary. That coupled with Goldman’s frankly sexist remarks about his wife (not to mention the sexism that was running through the story itself… at one point Westley tells Buttercup in so many words that she is his property and has to do as she’s told), and his pretty disrespectful remarks about his son, and it felt like he was trying really hard to not endear himself to me. And if he was doing that, why should I care about reading his favourite book in the world?.

What I did like? I really liked the back-stories of the side characters. We got to see Inigo Montoya’s childhood, and his training to become the master swordsman that he is by the time the story takes place. We got to see how Fezzik came to be involved with Vizzini’s group (his obsession with rhymes makes a bit more sense in the book than in the movie, where it just seems to be something he does for the hell of it). Hell, even Prince Humperdinck was well-rounded. A well-rounded manipulative jerkwad, but well-rounded nonetheless. The best scenes were the ones with these characters, as well. To be honest, Westley and Buttercup are pretty bland characters… their only motivation is “twu wuv”, Buttercup’s only talent is her beauty and Westley has the opposite problem of being talented at everything, bordering on Gary Stu territory.

So yes. That’s why I’m giving a supposed perfect, amazing, classic just three stars. I’m sorry.


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

  1. Kate Sparkes says:

    That’s pretty much how I felt about it. I didn’t mind the interjections (some of them were funny), and I liked getting more back-story. But the whole framing thing made me want to throw the book across the room. This was one case where I think the movie is better than the book.

    Maybe the only case.


    • Emily Witt says:

      Agreed, though I would have to add Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine to that list, since the movie actually has an original ending, unlike the book, which literally just turned into Cinderella.


  2. Cate Russell-Cole says:

    With that kind of author commentary, I would have just left the movie with 5 stars and given the author 1. It just doesn’t make sense? How did that get through an editor?


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