Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book Review: The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

Trailer for the film.

The Princess Bride is two stories in one. Firstly, it purports to be an abridgement of 'S. Morgenstern''s 'classic tale of true love and high adventure' in which Buttercup, the most beautiful lady in the world, thinking her true love Westley is dead, agrees to marry Prince Humperdink, who only wants to kill her and frame another country for her death so that he can have a war. Secondly, it is the story of how the original relates to the narrator's life, the narrator being a fictionalised version of the author, William Goldman. In addition, the 25th Anniversary edition includes an introduction, and a first chapter from the sequel, both of which include a lot of detail about fictional legal battles and problems with publishers.

I was really looking forward to reading this book because I enjoyed the film, and because fairy tales are one of my greatest obsessions. My reactions to the book were inconsistent though - sometimes I was loathe to put it down because I thought what I was reading was particularly fun or clever, but at other times I rolled my eyes and wondered what the point of it all was. It wasn't that I loved the fairy tale parts and hated the parts that were supposedly explaining how the 'original' The Princess Bride related to the author's life, like many reviewers seem to. My favourite parts were from the fairy tale - the climb of and battles on the Cliffs of Insanity, because it was exciting, and the visit to Miracle Max, because it made me laugh. But the introductions and interjections from the narrator were interesting, although they could have been better, more concise, less repetitive. I could appreciate the satirical references to the publishing industry and academia.

Maybe I'm too much of a fairy tale fanatic to be wholly impressed with The Princess Bride. I've read so many great retellings, reworkings, parodies, and original stories that The Princess Bride just seems a bit clumsy in comparison. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it, and that I wouldn't read it again. It is an enjoyable, slightly-subversive, take on the fairy tale genre. Yet it didn't have that spark that books I truly love have.

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