The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The Princess Bride is a unique story because it treats the reader to two completely separate narratives: the story of Buttercup, a “classic tale of true love and high adventure,” and the story of young William Goldman’s father reading the book to him when he was sick. What Goldman does not clarify, though, is that both stories are fantasy, not just the tale of Buttercup and Westley; most of the anecdotes about Goldman’s life are fictional (ex: he writes about his son, but in actuality he has two daughters). These asides had the potential to distract from the actual story of The Princess Bride, but Goldman wrote them in such a way that they not only help to advance the story in several chapters, but they also add a good deal of humor to the book.

The Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure
The Princess Bride
tells the story of Buttercup, the most beautiful woman in the world, and Westley, the farm boy who is her true love. When Westley leaves to seek his fortune, however, his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never leaves survivors. Buttercup is devastated and vows never to love again, so when Prince Humperdinck asks for her hand in marriage, she initially refuses. He informs her, though, that it is not necessary for her to love him, and she accepts.

The real adventure begins when Vizzini’s Crowd (“two’s a company, three’s a crowd”) kidnaps Buttercup. Vizzini’s Crowd is comprised of Fezzik, the gentle Turkish giant who is fond of rhymes, Inigo, the Spaniard who has reached the nigh-impossible swordsmanship level of wizard and is on a quest to avenge his father, and Vizzini, the hunchbacked evil mastermind who thinks so highly of his own intellect that he scoffs at Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates. Following Buttercup’s kidnapping, we are treated to fantastic duels, a hilarious battle of wits, the treacherous fire swamp and its Rodents of Unusual Size, the five terrifying levels of the Zoo of Death, murder, miracles, and, of course, true love.

All the while, Goldman is interjecting his thoughts, and his interruptions are not only funny, but also occasionally surprisingly poignant. No, the story of his father reading to him isn’t true, but how many of us can relate to loving a book so much that we can’t wait to read the next chapter? Loving it so much it makes us cry? Loving it so much that we learn lessons from it that we carry with us for the rest of our lives? Such is the effect of The Princess Bride on the fictional young Goldman, and it is for these reasons that many readers will relate more to him than to the characters of the actual story.

Personal Bias
This is my favorite book in the entire world, and I’ve read it every year, several times a year, since I was twelve (I’m now 23). That being said, I am able to recognize that this book is not perfect. There are several points at which Goldman’s asides go on for a little too long and bring us too far away from the main narrative. Also, although Westley is a wonderful character, it could be argued that he is perhaps too perfect; I am not of this opinion, but I will still recognize its existence. Westley’s exceptional skills and near-perfection can, for some, remove the suspense from most situations since it is assumed that he will escape unscathed. Why am I giving this admittedly flawed book a five-star review, then? Because I think this book is as close to perfection as a book can get (and I challenge you to find me a book that’s 100% perfect). Because I think there is still suspense since Westley does not escape from every situation unscathed. Because this book is able to both take me away to a fantasy world and keep me grounded in reality. Because it’s my favorite book in the entire world.

Why Should You Read This Book?
The Princess Bride
is, above all else, a very fun read. It’s fairly short and a very quick read, but those 250 pages are packed with a fast-paced plot, extremely lovable characters, a beautiful love story, humor, and the interesting and fairly unique double-narrative. Even if you’ve seen the movie, the book is very enjoyable (I read the book after seeing the movie) because there is a lot more character and plot development.

About Marnie

Marnie is quite a silly person, with a head full of dreams and impossible imaginings. She has an almost unhealthy love for her hair and spends far too much time brushing it and even talking to it on occasion. Marnie spends most of her time braving the treacherous passages of Barnes and Noble, cursing those who can’t seem to put books back on the shelves and mocking the fools who try to use a Borders gift card to pay for their purchases. If she ever obtains the gift of flight, she plans to take off immediately for the second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.

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  1. This is one I want to get. I’ve loved the movie and thought the book has to be tons times better. 🙂 thank you for the review. 🙂

  2. Thank you for writing this review! I wasn’t familiar with the book, only with the movie, which is so very well done. It’s interesting that Cary Elwes has such a deft, mockingly ironic take on the Westley role, it isn’t a problem in the film. On the other hand, the wrapper, Peter Falk reading the story to his grandson, always seemed extraneous to me.


    I have this book sat next to me (now) waiting to be read.  I’m so excited that I could burst.  I don’t know why but I’m already predisposed to love this novel for some reason, maybe because I already love the film.
    Great review.

    Lynn 😀

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