Review: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Review: The Princess Bride by William GoldmanThe Princess Bride by William Goldman
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 2007-10-08
Pages: 480
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William Goldman's modern fantasy classic is a simple, exceptional story about quests—for riches, revenge, power, and, of course, true love—that's thrilling and timeless. Anyone who lived through the 1980s may find it impossible—inconceivable, even—to equate The Princess Bride with anything other than the sweet, celluloid romance of Westley and Buttercup, but the film is only a fraction of the ingenious storytelling you'll find in these pages. Rich in character and satire, the novel is set in 1941 and framed cleverly as an “abridged” retelling of a centuries-old tale set in the fabled country of Florin that's home to “Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions.”

Let’s talk about the cover of The Princess Bride for a minute. I love how Buttercup looks like Robin Wright Penn. I’m pretty sure it’s *not* her but it’s a nice touch.

The structure of this book is interesting. Goldman begins with the story of his childhood and how he, an avid sports fan, hated to read. After becoming horribly ill, his father read him The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern, thus fostering a lifetime of reading and the need to pass the novel down to his own son. Here is the kicker:

S. Morgenstern doesn’t exist.

It took me a long time to realize this. I finally did a Google search and found out that Goldman’s “autobiographical” story is really just a fictional device that he uses to tell the story. So yeah. S. Morgenstern, Goldman’s son, his weird psychologist wife … don’t exist. Goldman really has two daughters (in case you wanted to know).

Why is this important? My life has been founded on a lie. Not really. But this weird meta-narrative emerges where there are three stories happening at once: Goldman telling us his “family” story, Goldman abridging “S. Morgenstern’s” classic Florinese (the country never existed) satirical novel (set apart by the parenthetical asides and italicized blocks of prose that he inserts in the text), and the actual story itself.

In a book that’s marketed as “the good parts version”, it certainly does have a lot of extra narrative. I’ve never really minded this because I thought it was funny. Now that I know the truth, I find it especially interesting because I think it’s officially a satire now and Goldman uses his “real” narratives to create a complex meta-narrative that comments on everything from psychologists and childhood obesity to the “professor of Florinese literature” who gives the fictional S. Morgenstern narrative legitimacy (and all of you a chuckle about how professors read too much into things). You guys, I’m getting a Ph.D. in literature. I try not to let it show but it inevitably shows up in times like these. Sorry about that.

As for The Princess Bride part, it’s brilliant. I love that Buttercup is a self-proclaimed idiot. I also love Fezzik and Inigo’s back stories. They are my two favorite characters and you really get a sense of how deep their friendship is when you read the book.


© 2014 – 2016, Jessica Workman Holland. All rights reserved.

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  • I also just read your movie review, and after reading both, I think I would rather watch the movie first. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Isn’t the book great?! I love that there is that actual layer that is a lie. 🙂

    • JessicaWorkman

      It took me a really long time to get that he made it all up but I think it’s a really interesting twist that adds a layer of complexity to the book. I do love the book.

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  • I like the cover of this book too. If it weren’t for the introductions in my book I mean never have known this book is a LIE! I noticed there is a lot of interest from bloggers about reading this book.. perhaps we should’ve all done a read a long!