The Princess Bride – Review of the Book

I discovered the film ‘The Princess Bride’ in my first year at university and I fell in love with it. I have only watched it once since than, but it has retained a special place in my mind. I enjoyed the characters, the plot, the catchphrases. It was an entertaining watch, but I had never had the chance to read the book. Until now.

Placing the book on my to-read list for 2015, I gave myself the excuse to go out and buy the book, which I did.

The book, I will admit, was a little confusing the start off with. The concept of it being an ‘abridged’ version of another, much older book was interesting, especially as it allowed the author to chip in every now and again with amusing anecdotes, but I did have a few issues with it to start off with – namely the fact that it did confuse me to start with and Goldman proclaiming it as one of the best books he had ever read rubbed me up the wrong way.

The story itself follows Buttercup and Westley, two young lovers, whose lives are thrown into turmoil after Westley goes off to make lots of money in America. Skip ahead a few years and Buttercup, about to marry Prince Humperdink, gets kidnapped and ends up becoming part of a wild goose chase which sets up an even bigger event towards the end of the book.

I will say this now, I really enjoyed the book while I was reading it. It was funny, the characters were amusing, the plot was face-paced and entertaining. However, the more I think back on it (and the film) the more I find myself questioning it. A couple of points in the book did through me out of reading. The points involved Buttercup’s treatment as a the sole (bar a few other minor characters) female lead. She has one moment in the entire book where she lived up her role as protagonist, where she actually did something worthwhile to the story. The rest of the time, she is passive, existing only to be in love with Westley, who, for someone reciprocating that love, treats her appallingly. Throughout the book, it becomes clear that Buttercup is only loved for her looks. The prose even highlights this at one point (which may have been intentional), by Westley saying why he loves Buttercup and only being able to come up with things relating to her beauty. Buttercup, do giver her credit, actually asks whether he likes her about her brains, which Westley just brushes to the side. At that point, I lost all investment in their relationship. Given that this is supposed to be one of the greatest love stories, it was just plain disappointing.

That being said, Fezzik and Inigo are fantastic characters and their relationship is one you can root for. Not to mention their character traits are even somewhat relatable, despite certain things (like catchphrases) being exaggerated, but that just went with the novel. I kind of wish the novel had been entirely about them and their exploits, rather than the romance between Buttercup and Westley. One thing I did notice, was that the majority of the characters were built around a concept, for instance pain  or hunting, that defined them. While this made it easy to differentiate between them, and added an entertaining element to the story, it did make them fall flat. They were not as well-rounded as they could have been.

The story is entertaining, full of twists and adventure. As a reader, you know much of what is going on, since it is told from multiple perspectives. However, there are a few aspects that are kept secret (which unfortunately I managed to guess a few of). While generally well-paced, there are moments that get a little slow and I did find myself skimming over some parts of the story. It was interesting reading the book after watching the film and it will be interesting to see if reading the book has altered my perspective of the film in any way.

Rating: 3/5


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3 thoughts on “The Princess Bride – Review of the Book

  1. “The prose even highlights this at one point (which may have been intentional), by Westley saying why he loves Buttercup and only being able to come up with things relating to her beauty.”

    Reminds of The Swan Princess when the Prince keeps saying how much he loves the Princess and her beauty at the start but she keeps saying “And?” I personally could never get into the film so wasn’t tempted by the book but as per usual I enjoyed reading your review!

    • I probably won’t give The Swan Princess a go if that’s the case. There is more to us girls than looks! It always frustrates me when I read a book and the female characters are only really characterized and admired for their appearance.

      Shame you didn’t get into the film. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed it was that I watched it without any prior expectations (in fact I was expecting it to be terrible since the title seemed awful), so it came across as really good when I watched it. I’m quite curious to watch it again now I’ve read the book to see if my perception has been swayed in any way, but I kind of don’t want to in case it does get ruined for me.


      • I know exactly what you mean! The Swan Princess doesn’t do that badly compared to other animated fairy tales made around that time in my opinion – I wouldn’t necessarily say it stood out as an outstanding film as a whole, but I remember really liking the Princess’ attitude because she did protest against the whole ‘women only need to be pretty’ idea and actually refused to marry the Prince until he realised there was more to her than that. My memory of it is a little hazy though so I couldn’t comment on the film’s attitudes to gender in general. There was an interesting study done by these two researchers (possibly called Grauerholz and Baker-Sperry but I’m not 100% sure) about the number of references to female beauty in the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and how this is often conflated with ‘goodness’ and competition. I had some issues with the way the data was handled/interpreted/publicised by third party organisations/websites but it still made for an interesting read.

        I agree with you about The Princess Bride’s name – I was only tempted to watch it because it happened to be on TV, had been given a five star rating and seemed like the sort of story I’d enjoy. I’m guessing my disappointment was largely down to my subconsciously high expectations!

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