Review of ‘The Princess Bride’ by William Goldman

I really wanted to love this book. It has been on my to-read list for a long time, although I’d somehow never got around to watching the film that so many people adore. First published in 1973, the main story is by the fictional author S Morgenstern with a frame narrative by William Goldman which includes a mixture of real and fictional details.

Book cover of The Princess Bride by William Goldman

It’s a book for adults but I suppose younger readers might enjoy it if they skip the author’s frequent interjections. The book is clever, its unconventional format veering into literary fiction territory. The somewhat complicated premise is that the author’s father read a book called The Princess Bride to him, when the author was ill as a child. Many years later, Goldman tracks down a copy for his own son and discovers that his father missed out a lot of the book, mainly the political satire and long-winded descriptions. Goldman then publishes an abridged version of the book, which is what we’re reading now. Every so often he explains his choices in editing the book, encourages us to appreciate Morgenstern’s genius and even describes an added scene which was rejected and how readers should write in to receive this (non-existent) scene by post.

Despite the title, the princess bride herself, Buttercup, does not appear much in the story. Nor does her hero, Westley. The most space is given over to the swashbuckler Inigo and his friend the giant Fezzik. The plot involves a beautiful girl, Buttercup, who is chosen by the odious Prince Humperdinck to be his bride. She has sworn never to love anyone other than Westley, the farm boy who left and was supposedly murdered by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Buttercup is then kidnapped by the trio of Vizzini, Inigo and Fezzik, who are being pursued by a mysterious man in black. Many adventures follow. There is quite often a humorous tone although nothing really laugh-out-loud. I did like the characters and the plot, it was the clever bits that started to annoy me! My 25th anniversary edition of the book (Bloomsbury, 1999) had an extra part at the end called ‘Buttercup’s Baby’ which I didn’t like. The ending of the original book was stronger without it.

In summary, I didn’t love this book, but you might.

5 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Princess Bride’ by William Goldman”

  1. I’m a fan of the film, the soundtrack and the book. I believe the American writer Nora Roberts owns a hotel/guest house with themed rooms, and one of them is the Buttercup and Westley room.

    1. I looked it up, all the rooms are named after couples in books. The photo of the Westley and Buttercup room has a weird bath!

      1. The bath in the Westley and Buttercup room is completely over the top! The whole theme of the Inn is too, but wouldn’t it have been fun to come up with the idea and decorate the rooms!

  2. Sorry you didn’t enjoy it. It is one of my all-time favorites. Have you seen the movie? It is HYSTERICAL! Maybe you’ll like the film better than you liked the book.

    1. I watched the film afterwards and really enjoyed it – definitely better than the book! The author was better known for screenplays and it really shows in the film. I would re-watch it but not re-read it 🙂

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