The Princess Bride is one of my favourite films and I’ve been meaning to read it for so long. When it finally came through the post a few weeks ago, my heart did a few somersaults. The story promises a swashbuckling adventure, heart fluttering romance, thrilling fights and intriguing mysteries. Does it deliver? You bet it does.
The main story of the The Princess Bride is actually a novel comprised within the novel. It tells the story of Buttercup who lives on a farm, in a fictional country called Florin, and she finds joy in nothing more than ordering the “farm boy” around. “Farm boy” does have a real name, it’s Westley. Each time he replies with, “As you wish”, but this phrase hides those three pesky little word. Westley leaves Buttercup behind, promising to return after making a fortune. But heartbreak reaches Buttercup first, hearing that Westley has been killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts. She vows to never love again, but Prince Humperdinck has his leery eyes set on her.
I really enjoyed this book, because I really needed it in my life right now. It’s absolutely fantastical and I loved it. Stories filled with such high adventure, this imbedded in a fantasyland and influenced by traditional fairy tale elements, are rare nowadays in my opinion. In this story you’ll find torture, miracles, poison, rolling down a hill, a fire swamp, giants and true love and a whole lot more. The romance between Westley and Buttercup might not have been realistic, but it was charming- the cute Renaissance-era, type. I loved how Inigo, Fezzik and Westley came together to form a gang, the banter between them and the adventure that they have. The story was magical and humorous, with witty and brilliant speech. I can picture Inigo exclaiming, “My name is Inigo Montaya, you killed my father. Prepare to die”- what a fabulous line.
The narrative structure of the novel is one of a novel inside a novel. Goldman is an author who is abridging an earlier version of the story, which had been written by S. Morgenstern. Thus, the novel is littered with Goldman’s commentary. I didn’t want these interventions. It was fine at the beginning, but as the story picked up pace, I didn’t like being pulled out of this world to be reminded that it is just that, a fictional story. But apparently, there were extra interventions in the anniversary edition? The only time I enjoyed it was Goldman saying that he had written a reunion scene (which the story lacked) and if the reader wanted to read it, they should email the publishers (which people did, and they received a letter back about the fictional legal problems. Great right?) There were also certain lines and characterisations that rattled me, such as Westley demanding Buttercup follow his command and the emphasis on Buttercup’s “Damsel in Distress” persona. Having read medieval tales of adventure and high romance, I understand this tendency to have a male hero save the woman, but this was overused at times. My edition included a small story titled Buttercup’s Baby at the end, which I didn’t care for at all.
Overall, I enjoyed the story of The Princess Bride, but didn’t care much for Goldman’s commentary. When I re-read this, I’m just going to skip these sections and simply follow the adventure of Buttercup, Westley, Inigo and Fezzik.
PS: watch the film if you haven’t!