The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman

04 Jan

This is one of those cases where the movie may just be a bit better than the book. Of course, I may be biased as I’ve seen the movie more times than I care to admit and can be counted on to quote bits of the movie at random (I adore the clergyman with the speech impediment). I broke down and bought The Princess Bride Kindle edition (1) because it was cheap and (2) because I needed the literary equivalent of comfort food. The sample that I had downloaded was entertaining enough, although the Topaz book format was frustrating to read (especially since I couldn’t change the font to my beloved sans-serif). The font itself was somewhat blurry, but not too hard on the eyes. I spotted many conversion errors throughout the book, but I’m becoming immune to them, as publishers do not seem to pay close attention when typesetting ebooks. The text was searchable, however, although the publisher did not include chapter navigation. Overall, a passable ebook reading experience.

Like the movie, The Princess Bride is written as a framed story, with a major difference: the tale is written as a “good parts” abridgment of a fictional author’s much longer work. The narrator tells us that S. Morgenstern wrote The Princess Bride as a parody of court etiquette, while Goldman himself is satirizing old fashioned adventure stories–meta commentary abounds. The narrator even breaks in at key points to comment on the action (possibly as a device to increase tension). For the most part it works, but in other instances it can be distracting (especially if you’re absorbed in the story). Reading the story isn’t an entirely immersive experience, which bothered me because I just wanted to enjoy some good escapist fun and the author was constantly butting in and ruining it for me. I particularly soured on the novel at the very end when the heroes are supposed to be riding into the sunset, but the narrator interrupts with more authorial yapping away. I was so irritated I didn’t bother to read the “excerpt” of Buttercup’s Baby; I couldn’t bear anymore of Goldman’s meanderings.

The film is mostly loyal to the book with key differences (the film writers did preserve some of the book’s funniest lines, i.e. those of the clergyman). We are treated to more back story, particularly of Buttercup and Westley’s burgeoning relationship on the farm and the reasons he leaves her to seek his fortune. Buttercup herself is largely uninteresting and fairly stupid; I kept wishing Westley would just chuck her and run off to have merry adventures with Inigo and Fezzik. I especially enjoyed Inigo and Fezzik’s back stories, which were far more intriguing than the main plot line (I didn’t care a whit about whether Buttercup and Westley would get back together). For those that have seen the film but have never read the book, I would recommend The Princess Bride. It’ll make you appreciate the film even more.


Posted by on January 4, 2011 in Author: William Goldman, Fantasy


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2 responses to “The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman

  1. shylockbooks

    January 6, 2011 at 2:15 am

    Inconceivable! 🙂 I really liked the ‘different’ way the story was told in the book, and at times I felt like I was watching the movie in my head. Great post!


  2. sabrina

    January 6, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    I definitely did at some points, too. I thought the movie was a softened version of the book, especially with Buttercup’s character. Thanks for stopping by!



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