The Princess Bride by William Goldman: Book Review

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Title: The Princess Bride
Author: William Goldman
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: July 2003
Length: 398 pages
Series: Stand Alone
Audio or Book: Book
Reason for Discovery: I loved the movie.

From 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. 

The Princess Bride is a tricky book to summarize. At its core, The Princess Bride is a fairy tale involving princes, princesses, fencing, true love, giants, and adventure. The Princess Bride is also a book about a guy who is abridging The Princess Bride.

I discovered the movie version of The Princess Bride in college. My friends who could all recite the dialogue from memory were horrified by my lack of movie education. I quickly grew to love the movie, and now I can quote chunks of it from memory. After I graduate college, I was browsing a bookstore, when I discovered The Princess Bride in book form. I did not know the movie was based on a book. I immediately went home and devoured it.

The fairy tale that I loved was nearly identical in book form. In fact, large chunks of the dialogue were kept word for word. Some of the characters were a bit more extreme in the book, but none of the characters felt too out of line. Unlike in the movie, there was no frame story about a sick boy and grandfather reading him a beloved tale. There was something much, much better. 

In the Introduction to The Princess Bride, William Goldman explains that he grew up listening to his dad read The Princess Bride. One day, when Goldman was an adult, he sat down and read The Princess Bride himself. He discovered that his father had cut out all of the boring parts of the book. Goldman explains that the tale in his book is an abridged version of The Princess Bride. Throughout the fairy tale, Goldman has notes where he cut out boring sections and explaining why he cut them out. In the version of The Princess Bride that I read, there was also an author's note at the end talking about how Stephen King had wanted to do the abridged version of The Princess Bride and that King did not like how Goldman abridged the book. All of this is fiction.

I have to be honest with you. When I read The Princess Bride, I believed every line that Goldman threw my way. It all made sense to me at the time, but I can be pretty naive. I lent the book to my roommate after I read it, because she was a big The Princess Bride fan too. She did a bit of research and discovered that this frame story about abridging the book was false. Goldman had written the fairy tale and the frame story. I thought that the frame story was fascinating when I thought it was true. Once I discovered that it was a piece of fiction; I loved the frame story even more. Honestly, I found that the frame story just added something extra to the fairy tale. Maybe it is because I read a ton of author's notes and introductions in college, but I thought Goldman's frame story was just a bit of clever writing. 

As you can probably tell, I love The Princess Bride. I don't mind that the author tricked me. I am also a fan of book introductions and annotated books, so I loved all of the non-fairy tale elements in The Princess Bride. As Amazon or GoodReads can tell you, however, the novel version of The Princess Bride is not everyone's cup of tea. People either love or hate this book. I have noticed that the people who appear to love the movie the most are the ones who tend to hate the book the most. Reading The Princess Bride will not add anything to your love of the movie. Like I said earlier, the dialogue is word-for-word many times. If you want a book that plays with the idea of books being strictly fiction and nonfiction, The Princess Bride is for you.

I give this book a 5 out of 5.

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