Thursday 24 May 2012

The Princess Bride - William Goldman

Title: The Princess Bride
Author: William Goldman
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 1973
Formats: Hardback/Paperback

Like many people my first introduction to "The Princess Bride" was via the movie of the same name. In fact until I decided to take part in a classic fantasy novel challenge I didn't even know it was actually based on a book. However, I am glad I have now read it as I think the framing story created by Goldman actually enhanced the story a little by giving a slightly deeper meaning.

The novel starts with an introduction relating a fictional account of William Goldman's childhood when his dad used to read "The Princess Bride" to him. As an adult he had decided that he wanted to find a copy for his own son, however when he read it he discovers that his dad had only been reading him the "good bits" as the rest of the novel was incredibly long winded and dull. He therefore decides to write an abridged version of the novel which is the story that he is supposedly presenting in this novel. As mentioned this is a fictional account and there never was an original novel nor an author named S. Morgenstern but it is a rather interesting plot device and he uses it to insert amusing, yet at times quite poignant side comments throughout the novel.

The plot line of the story that Goldman is supposedly abridging is about two young people called Buttercup and Westley and their attempt at finding love together. However, this is a cruel world and when Westley is lost at sea; Buttercup is left with no choice but to marry the rather unlikeable heir to the throne of Florin, Prince Humperdinck. Things go from bad to worse though when Buttercup is kidnapped in an attempt to start a war between Florin and its neighbour, Guilder. The various politics and espionage involved in this however all begins to unravel when a mysterious man in black shows up.

I found the entire novel to be very quirky and entertaining with lots of humour spread throughout both the side comments and the core plot. I found that this humour and Goldman's concentration on fun and adventure actually gave the book a little bit of fantasy parody feeling. However, it is definitely more than this and the story around Buttercup and Westley is fun, exciting and full of enjoyable adventures in its own right. In addition some of the locations created by Goldman such as the "Zoo of Death" and "Cliffs of Insanity". were very colourful and rather memorable.

The characters themselves were a little bit of a conundrum to me to be honest. Basically, the supposedly main characters, Buttercup and Westley just didn't really fill me with any empathy. I just found them to be a little bit dull and unoriginal; Buttercup especially just came across to me as being a rather vapid character. However, the supporting characters were the complete opposite; they were colourful, solidly developed and interesting in so many ways. Two of the kidnappers, Fezzik and Inigo are really fleshed out as the novel progresses and it was these two characters that I found myself supporting by the end of the novel.

Overall, this is a very quirky story that had me smiling from start to finish with both the core plot and the framing story being interesting and amusing in their own right. At times the framing story actually made it feel like the author was reading the story to me as a parent would a child in bed and I found this to be a rather enjoyable and quite novel experience. I think this story really is for everyone, although ironically I think a parent reading to a child may just skip the framing story and side comments as I don't think young children would really find them that interesting, in other words they would probably just enjoy the "good bits" version of this book.

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Challenges Book Counts Towards:
Speculative Fiction Challenge
Year of the Fantasy Classic Challenge


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