William Goldman’s The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride, William GoldmanThe Princess Bride has long been hailed as a cult classic. This opinion is one that I feel is rightly deserved.

At the novel’s heart is a romance story set against the backdrop of a fantastical adventure. The sweeping setting and classic archetypes present within the book are all ones that could be found within a classic fairy-tale. However, the humour and self-referential nature of Goldman’s book prove to elevate the work above this genre and into a deeper, more complex story.

Told through the narration of both the real (and yet fictitious) author Goldman, the novel is one that contains many layers. At the centre of these layers is the story of Westley and Princess Buttercup. Outside of this story, the framing technique of Goldman’s commentary details how he came to reprise the fictional original text, not to mention his own, one again fictional, personal issues.

Where the film, of the same name, is framed with the story of the Grandfather and grandchild, the book instead relates Goldman’s own history in numerous injections that discuss the original text, his family, Hollywood and even the fictional legal battles concerned with publishing the book. As you can see from that above description, the story is a complex and multifaceted one. While certainly off putting at times, the mixture of real life and fantasy (such as the authors real screenwriting back-list and the instructions on how to receive a copy of a missing chapter) only adds to the books appeal.

The book is not only the classic and well known tale, it is one full of lovely imagery and delightful prose. Simple lines such as ‘It was a very long and very green night’ (30th Anniversary 2007 edition, pg. 57) which is in reference to a jealous night spent by Buttercup, litter the novel and demonstrate the simple yet elegant style. At moments the writing can be poetic, humourous, and even metaphysical; through it all though it is both simple to read yet complexly crafted. The story and characters created by Goldman are a pleasure to read and over time each interjection only adds to the rich narrative surrounding the title.

In regards to reading the novel I will offer the one suggestion of skipping the first two introductions in the special editions of the book, as they can be initially off putting. These sections are best left for after the book is finished and you are well versed on the writing style and voice of Goldman.

If you are expecting a cut and dry fairy-tale from The Princess Bride, then prepare to die be surprised. For it is so much more.

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