Sunday 11 September 2011

REVIEW: The Princess Bride, by William Goldman (4.5*)

(Bloomsbury, 1999)

Like many people I expect, I came to this book having already seen and loved the 1987 movie – a fact that is beautifully exploited by Goldman in this up-to-date edition of his cult classic. From the first page of his tongue-in-cheek introduction I found myself stifling giggles, reading about the process of casting and shooting the film. It was once the novel itself began, however, that I really fell in love.

As most people will know, The Princess Bride is a satirical take on fairytale tradition, ‘abridged’ from a larger fictional work by ‘S. Morgenstern’. One of the real delights in the book is how convincing Goldman is about the existence of the fictional country of Florin and about Morgenstern’s style as a writer. There are brilliantly executed editorial sections scattered throughout the novel detailing his decisions to cut various parts of the ‘original’. It really is no wonder that so many readers hit the bookshops looking for Morgenstern’s version!

The story itself is famous for its brilliant wit and its cast of wonderful characters. At its heart is the story of the Princess Buttercup and her true love, the farm boy Westley. Around that heart is built a complex web involving pirates, sword-fights, an evil prince, a benevolent king, revenge, monsters and betrayal. There is a Zoo of Death and a terrifying Dread Pirate Roberts, an albino and a miracle man, giant rats and Cliffs of Insanity. Of course, I couldn’t forget the wonderful trio, Vizzini the Sicilian (the criminal mastermind), Inigo the Spaniard (the master fencer) and Fezzik the Giant (the rhyming fighter), each with their own journeys to make.

I could go on forever but the truth is, it’s really one of those books that works better if you just pick it up, settle in for the ride and find out for yourself. If you’ve seen the movie, now read the book; if you’ve not heard of either, what are you waiting for?! You’re in for a real treat – and it’s definitely a keeper for me.

Source: I bought this book from Scarthin Books in Cromford.