The Princess Bride by William Goldman (Brief Thoughts)

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The Princess Bride (by William Goldman, first published 1973) is a celebration of story-telling. It is a story in a story in a story. William Goldman tells the story of his father telling him a story of an abridged story by S. Morgenstern, which has all sorts of political side-agendas for Morgenstern’s day. There are lots of “authors” in the book, and the story celebrates adventure in a non-interesting world.

Morgenstern’s story of The Princess Bride revolves around a farm girl and her adoring servant. Their love is ridiculous. They never say anything to each other, and Buttercup is flighty and ridiculous. This is not a book of strong characters but rather of stereotypes.

These stereotypes make the book the rollicking fun that it is: the power-hungry king willing to kill his beautiful bride to start a war, the romantic and superficial relationship between the two lovers, the Spaniard’s quest for revenge, an emotionally needy giant, the mafia-like Scilian who is really ridiculous. Each character has an underlying story to add to the menagerie. It is lots of fun to watch the adventures unfold. The Princess Bride celebrates that everyone has story, even the stereotypical heroes and villains.

That said, rereading The Princess Bride as an adult was not as satisfying as reading it as a teenager. I like reading the histories of the characters (much of the prehistory has been left out of the movie) but I was not as satisfied with the novel. Goldman has written a story within a story within a story, and yet each “author” has the same voice: that of Goldman. In that respect, it’s disappointing.

Nonetheless, the book as a whole is a fun journey. During my teenage years, The Princess Bride movie was kind of a touchstone work. I watched it many times and I always loved it: the ridiculous romance, the exaggerated adventure, the daring rescue and reunion, the great lines throughout. When I read novel, I likewise am in love with the fantasy world created. It’s not a favorite novel, but it certainly is a fun interlude.

Chrisbookarama is hosting a readalong of this fantasy novel. I couldn’t wait to reread it!  The month-long readalong begins this week, so if you want to join in, there is plenty of time. Make sure you find the version abridged by Goldman, as the S. Morgenstern version has lots of boring parts.

Reviewed on October 5, 2010

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I remember reading this book my 7th grade year. I have this vivid memory of finishing it while sitting in the back of my parents car (this was the usual scene, they would drive while I nestled myself in the back with a book) totally in love with the book.

    I wrote a letter to Goldman.

    He never wrote back.

    I convinced myself he was dead and believed that up until many years later. In reality, he was probably to busy. LOL.

    • christina, What a fun memory of reading this book! I remember reading Harry Potter in the back of my parents car. That’s sad he never wrote back….but it does sound like he got rather deluged with fans after the movie came out!

  • I’m really enjoying it so far. I’m not looking too deeply into the characters. It reminds me of the old fashioned fairy tales were the lovers fall in love after meeting one time. No explanations- just the way it is!

    • Chris@bookarama, yep, just like old fairy tales and fantasy stories. I do love the back stories to each of the characters though. Maybe you haven’t gotten to them yet. It’s so fun. Enjoy!

  • I have seen the film version scheduled on the television so many times but have never actually watched it! Or read the book, for that matter. It’s quite intriguing as I’ve been reading more YA this year (only a few novels but more than I’ve ever read before). I’ll certainly follow the readalong even if I don’t read the book myself (although I’m tempted).

    • litlove, it was a movie I watched and rewatched constantly through my teenage years and college — so I am a fan. I do hope you get to see the movie at some point (just as good or better than the book….).

  • This is one I’ve yet to read. I’ve only seen the movie like twice too. One day I’ll get to the book, but I’m not in any rush.

    So I’m curious – are they stereotypes, or do any of them feel more like archetypes? Probably not the Spaniard or Sicilian, but you mentioned the power-hungry king and that made me wonder if some of the main characters were more like fairy tale archetypes instead?

    • Amanda, Ok, I think you are right. These are more the archetypes. I just looked both words up on Merriam-Webster.

      “stereotype: : something conforming to a fixed or general pattern; especially : a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment ”

      “archetype: : the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies : prototype; also : a perfect example

      So yeah, archetype probably fits better. It doesn’t have the negative connotation too. At any rate the characters are lots of fun!!

  • Ha about the abridgement–as a teenager, that was the part that fascinated me; Goldman harkens back to the days of the 16th century when fiction was “lies.”

    I wrote to his publisher and got the “reunion scene” sent to me!

  • Rebecca, from your review I see that you loved the movie version more that the written(the book) format. I guess I have to watch the movie before I read the book. Isn’t?

    • Geoffrey, no, you don’t have to watch the movie first. I DID watch the movie first so my perspective of the book is skewed. I think, in the end, the movie is a favorite movie for me where the book is not a favorite book, but that’s just in the medium. If you want to read an adventurous book, with fantasy, this one is great. If you’d rather watch the movie and don’t want to take the time to read it, then the movie is great.

  • I am not one of those huge Princess Bride fans as I didn’t watch it endlessly as a child, and really only came to it in my late teens. That said I did read the book, and while parts of it I enjoyed (like the extended histories), I didn’t think it was all that amazing, and think the movie is probably more enjoyable in the long run. I do think this is one of those things where there’s a critical window that I may have missed!

    • Steph, Since I did watch the movie repeatedly, I think that maybe why I was so excited to read the book! But I agree that it’s probably not that amazing of a book. Upon reread, i was actually kind of disappointed. Although I still love the movie 🙂 Sorry you missed the “critical window”!

  • I adore this movie, and I always found the book disappointing. But then I did see the movie long before I read the book, and I don’t really care for Goldman’s style of writing. I actually just rewatched The Princess Bride last week – Mandy Patinkin’s so perfect as Inigo Montoya.

    • Jenny, I agree on Inigo Montoya. Actually, I love all the actors in the movie. So well done. Upon reread, I agree re: Goldman’s style of writing. But the first time I read it, as a teenager, I was enthralled because I loved the movie so much and was excited there was a book of it! Ah well, I can always go back to the movie now!

  • I enjoyed most of this but didn’t care for the introduction. It caused me to really dislike the narrator. I have finished the main story, but am forcing myself to get through “Buttercup’s Baby.” I think I’d rather read Ulysses than this last portion of Goldman’s ramblings!

    • Shelley, Yes, the narrator was not a favorite. I was very disappointed in Buttercup’s Baby too! Ah well, we can stick with the movie in the future. Although like you I did enjoy most of the book.

  • I have not read the book, though I love the movie. After reading your review, I would probably read it more just to expand on the movie. And I would definitely recommend it to some of my girl cousins who are in middle-school. Thanks for the post!

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